Sprint Changes 'Unlimited' Broadband To 5 Gigs… While Still Advertising Unlimited Broadband

from the that's-not-unlimited dept

I’ve actually been one of the few satisfied Sprint customers for many years. Over the past few years, they were the only mobile broadband provider who didn’t limit mobile broadband to ridiculously low plans like 5 gigs per month, like other carriers. In fact, this was a key selling point, and one of the reasons why I happily stuck it out with Sprint. I know Wall St. analysts have been insisting that Sprint would need to cap such broadband usage at some point, but it seemed like a really short-sighted idea, since the unlimited broadband is really about the only facet of a Sprint account that makes it more appealing than its competitors. And so… of course… it appears to be going away. Here’s the email I recently received concerning my “phone as modem” option, which I use often enough:

Basically, with no warning, effective immediately, Sprint has unilaterally changed our deal from one where I was paying for unlimited data via the phone as a modem — to one where it’s capped at a stupidly low 5GB. And, the company even has the gall to then happily tell me (below the screenshot cut off) that this change won’t impact how much I pay — as if I should have expected them to increase the fees while taking away a feature I like.

Considering that unlimited mobile broadband was not only part of the marketing pitch, but also a big part of the reason for why I signed up for the plan I did, this certainly seems like a bait-and-switch deal… and I’d thought that bait-and-switch deals like this were violations of FTC rules, but what do I know?

Of course, on a whim, I wondered if Sprint’s marketing had changed… and I did a quick search on “Sprint unlimited broadband” and turned up the following advertisement:

If you can’t see it clearly — it appears Sprint is still advertising unlimited mobile broadband — highlighting that you can “avoid the data dilemma” and “get truly Unlimited data.” Except, um, that’s clearly not the case. Changing your plans unilaterally for those who specifically signed up for unlimited broadband is one thing. But continuing to advertise such plans while limiting them and — even worse, effectively mocking such limited plans — is simply adding rather obnoxious insult to injury. Sorry Sprint, but you may have finally convinced me it’s time to explore other options.

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Comments on “Sprint Changes 'Unlimited' Broadband To 5 Gigs… While Still Advertising Unlimited Broadband”

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iambinarymind (profile) says:

Re: AG's

I’m sorry to bear the bad news, but Attorney Genitals don’t give a damn about consumers unless they have an interest in intervening (normally to obtain more power).

This is the result of coercive governance.

To expect the protection of our property rights by granting a government the monopoly privilege to ignore said property rights (theft/force) is absolute insanity.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: AG's

Attorney Generals are more than willing to intervene in cases because they do not have to worry about being reelected.

As an aside, the plural is attorneys general (like courts martial, passersby, and brothers-in-law). Don’t feel bad though, I’ve heard an attorney general make the same mistake. 🙂

More to the point, elections are not the only kind of pressure an official can be subject to.

nadine says:


Sprint has ENDED our contract because after spending 600 dollars to get new phones and upgrade our plan to the truley unlimited data plan, they advised since my husband is out of town one day a week and uses his google chat to call his family using the hotel’s wifi on his phone he used TOO MUCH internet while on roaming in an area only a couple hours from home..I recieved NO LETTER, NO EMAIL

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Slightly inaccurate

These are separate plans/features.

Only because someone said “if we arbitrarily make these separate plans/features, we can charge more money!”

Data is data. They are not in fact separate features at all – just separate totally artificial plans. Why difference does it make if you download 5gb of data on your phone, or on your laptop connected through your phone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

From my understanding based on discussions over at XDA and a few other places, they supposedly can tell (which is how AT&T and Verizon were able to send messages to people warning them their plans were going to be changed if they continued using hotspot/tethering apps). I also spoke to a Sprint representative who said something similar, that no matter what you use they can tell when you’re tethering, but at the moment they didn’t really care. I wonder if soon I’ll be getting a message from Sprint, much like my brother got on AT&T warning me about my tethering use. Of course, I have a Nexus S 4G that is rooted. Running stock ICS with the Android built-in tethering feature restored (a feature that the carrier’s themselves disabled). I guess I’m a dirty thieving pirate some of the usual trolls might say.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Slightly inaccurate

Yeah, PdaNet was the first I used originally. Since the easiest way to root my phone (at the time) involved installing PdaNet (for the drivers). Wasn’t a big fan of it. There’s also ClockworkMod Tether, which supposedly cannot be traced/discovered/whatnot by the carriers (and also DOES NOT require a phone to be rooted).

Personally, I’m happy sticking with the in-built Nexus S tethering. I use it rarely. I use more data just streaming music to my phone on a regular basis per day than I do using my phone to tether my laptop on the go (which I only do once a week, if that).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

So there are a few other technical ways of knowing…

Browser agent id’s, probably the website content itself (if you are watching plain old hulu.com for example), could probably detect things through TCP sequence numbers, etc

Of course there are technical ways around this and it turns out the best technical method would probably be personal VPN which also happens to be one of the better ways to make sure you are securely browsing the internet through unprotected WiFi (see the connection there…your mobile data provider is now your ‘attacker’). With a VPN tunnel your mobile provider is now out of the loop on what that data is (and also if its your phone or your tethered laptop)

It still perplexes me that executive management of telcos try to outwit their customers. If a mobile provider was honest and would say “hey we have good service, but because there are a lot of people and technical challenges, we need to only sell you limited plans right now while we continue to up or capability. Oh and also we know data is all the same so do what you want with it” how many customers do you think they would add? All customers tired of the bs….which is probably every one with a cell phone

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

Data is data, but the usage is just not the same. What you might browser online with your phone is entirely different from what you might do using your phone as a hot spot for your laptop or even desktop computers.

Unlimited is unlimited as in “all you can do with your device”. Hot spot usage does change things somewhat, and they are probably trying to address a real issue with large amounts of “data is data” by people who thought that unlimited was an infinite gift.

The question is how much you CAN download…

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

So they were relying on a limitation of the technology to be able to claim they were offering something they were never actually offering.

The data costs them the same either way. What you’re saying is, they never had any intention of offering “unlimited” data – they were just saying that, and trusting their customers not to be able to find a way to use too much. They were hoping that a natural limit would prevent them from having to create their own limit. That was dumb.

Smartphones are advancing rapidly – it’s getting easier and easier to gobble up data with them. But they are still offering “unlimited” data plans. So what you’re saying is that the moment people start using too much data, they will add new restrictions, because they are not actually offering unlimited data.

Basically, this is like paying for an all-you-can-eat buffet, then being kicked out for eating too much.

Hothmonster says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Slightly inaccurate

“Basically, this is like paying for an all-you-can-eat buffet, then being kicked out for eating too much.”

No no no we are not kicking you out sir. It’s just that you went over your 20 shrimp limit and will have to pay 5 dollars for every other shrimp you ate. You can have an unlimited amount of shrimp, you just have to pay for everyone.

I can’t wait for one of these companies to claim something like this. “Well you do have unlimited data, no one is stopping you from downloading over 5gb, you just have to pay extra beyond that mark.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Slightly inaccurate

Perhaps there are still some misinformed peons around (feel free to raise your hands) that haven’t yet realized that “unlimited” refers not to the amount of data the customer is permitted to consume, but rather to the unlimited nature of the limitations that the provider is free to implement in order to unlimit the customer’s consumption of data. Wake up and smell the unlimitations!

snidely (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Slightly inaccurate

Note that this is a material change in the terms of your contract with Sprint and you can cancel service with no early termination fee. Generally, if you call in and complain and say that you are going to cancel the account because of the change, Sprint will offer some discounts to get you to stay. Just be sure that whatever they offer does not reset the contract termination date.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

Bullshit. I can run, and often do, BitTorrent on my phone when I’m not at my home computer, even when I have a computer tethered to it. I use way more bandwidth directly from the phone than I use from that computer.

Unlimited is unlimited. By setting a cap for tethering, they’re basically charging you from the bits that go from the phone to the computer thru the USB cable or WiFi connection (which is none of their damn business). That’s no different from selling you “unlimited electricity” which goes to some battery in your house, but then charging you extra money for each kilowatt that goes to actually power a device.

Also, by having those caps, they’re telling me I can watch as many YouTube videos as I want, AS LONG as I use a small screen (even if I still watch them at super-mega-HD and discard the extra pixels). They’re effectively charging extra from the amount of light that goes from the screen to my eyes.

Bengie says:

Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

To be fair, My wife uses under 50MB/month with her droid, which she uses non-stop 24/7. Wakes up in the middle of the night to poke around.

She can break 50MB browsing the same pages in under a day.

Face it, pages are optimized to to smaller for mobile users.

P.S. we disabled wifi on her cell-phone because a few apps were getting confused some times when switching 3G to wifi.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

I can easily go through 8gb a month if I don’t watch it (I am only allowed 2GB a month) just using my phone. I stream audio/video on my phone while I workout, when driving cross country, when sitting in parking lots waiting for my second job to start. 5 Episodes of my current show watching list gets me dangerously close to 1.8 GB. 4 workouts does the same. My work phone is a hotspot and I have unlimited plans on it (its not truely unlimited, we have a plan of 600GB for 75 phones and its just pooled there). What they should do to make it better, not that they want to make it better for us, let us bank bandwidth. Say I use only 1 GB one month, let me bank 10% or more of the left over to use up later that year. if I don’t use it in a year, wipe it off.

Don says:

Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

While data is data of course, data usage profiles are entirely different when using the tethering feature versus data that is meant for local/internal phone usage.

You are much more likely to use a huge amount of bandwidth on a tethered device. From personal experience, I never go over my phone’s 4GB limit (Verizon), but I always get in trouble when using the tethering mode.

I think this is a good balance. Keeping the phone unlimited, but ensuring reasonable usage if tethering.

I would have liked to see Sprint make it 10GB or 20GB as the default to maintain a marketing advantage for them, but all in all, this isn’t as surprise to me as they move into true 4G and have to deal with the real world costs/limited spectrum issues involved.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

I think this is a good balance. Keeping the phone unlimited, but ensuring reasonable usage if tethering.

How is that a good balance? As soon as more people start using more data on their phones (happening every day) they will revoke the “unlimited” since it was a lie all along.

Data is data. If they can’t afford to sustain heavy usage patterns, they can’t call it “unlimited”.

What if you want to tether, but you only want to use it to check your email and pull a few MB a month? Should you have to pay extra on top of your unlimited data plan?

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

Your bandwidth usage is the same no matter what device you’re using. Bandwidth (otherwise referred to as a range of radio frequencies, such as FM bandwidth)is the rate at which you transfer data, not the data itself. Just a point of contention.

Now, the assertion that phone data is naturally less than tethered data only holds up so long as you don’t use any services on the phone that use large amounts of data. As soon as you start using streaming video, audio, or other data intensive applications, that assumption goes right out of the window. It is possible and very likely that one can max out their data cap with just the phone, without tethering. The whole idea of capping tethering and not the phone itself is just stupid.

Besides, it’s not the data usage that’s the problem here, it’s that carriers oversell their bandwidth under the assumption that people can use the bandwidth when others are not. The data cap is a tool to ensure this is the case. We are facing a crisis right now where we are running out of bandwidth (i.e. the number of frequencies we can use). The problem isn’t data usage, it’s a problem of a spectrum crunch. There are just only so many connections a tower can maintain before it runs out of “slots”. Wireless providers are going to have to face facts that either they can accept that they can only serve a finite number of users or find a new source of spectrum that they can use. Capping data isn’t an effective solution because their goal as a business is to increase subscribers. As more people subscribe, their spectrum is divided more and more. This means that data caps will progressively get smaller. This makes the device less useful. But, as we know, wireless providers, or any ISP for that matter, don’t like to update the infrastructure when they can just expand their customer base by degrading the service for everyone.


Data caps aren’t the solution, finding more spectrum is.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Slightly inaccurate

Bandwidth is the range of frequencies that are used to transmit data. More bandwidth means faster speed. Think of it as a pipe. The wider the pipe, the more water that can be transferred. Spectrum is the entire continuum of radio frequencies whereas bandwidth is a measured section. The FM band occupies the frequencies from 87.5 to 108 MHz. Finding more usable spectrum will allow us to access more bandwidth.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Slightly inaccurate

Spectrum is the entire continuum of radio frequencies whereas bandwidth is a measured section. The FM band occupies the frequencies from 87.5 to 108 MHz.

Bandwidth is generally measured in bits per second, not hertz. It’s a measure of data transfer speed, not transmission frequency (though the two are related).

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Slightly inaccurate

You’re thinking of the wired bandwidth. I’m talking about radio bandwidth, as in radio frequencies that cell phones use to communicate with the tower. It’s the bandwidth between the phone and the tower only, the internet doesn’t even factor in to it yet. Cell towers are licensed a range of frequencies that they can use. They have a finite amount of bandwidth they can hand out within the cellular band. They divide the bandwidth of the cell band (the microwave band actually) into slots known as channels. When all of the channels are occupied, no new connections can be made. The impose data caps on your internet usage so to keep you from occupying the cell channel to long because while you’re using the channel no one else can. They’re trying to limit your internet usage so you the analog channels aren’t congested with internet requests.

JarHead says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Slightly inaccurate

This is what got me confused on the term “bandwith” in computer networking sense. What’s the direct connection between “bandwith”, which I learnt as “the length of the road” in college (electronics major), “speed” as in “the rate of displacement of something moving on the said road”, i.e. upload/download speed, and the total amount of the said thing moving on the said road at one time, i.e. the amount of data transferred.

There is a correlation of those terms which can be translated to a equation/formula, but saying 5GB bandwith = 5GB of data IMHO is not accurate.

Is this one of those terms which meaning becoming muddied by advancing science/tech, like entropy which have different meaning in thermodynamics and cryptography (and apparently hopelessly distorted in quantum physics)? Why can’t someone come up with a different term? Even the term “Gluon” (from Glue-On) is more ingenious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

It makes no difference at all, so why not ask an enterprising false advertising or bait-and-switch lawyer that question? This whole “tethering” concept has an air of injustice about it; a sense of “I call bullshit” that might just convince a jury that Sprint did something unlawful. If we can’t get true net neutrality through legislation, maybe we can get it through litigation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

No, data is not data. Data via a mobile network is not the same as data via a land-line, obviously.

“Why difference does it make if you download 5gb of data on your phone, or on your laptop connected through your phone?”

Let’s not be disingenuous. The difference is that is far harder to use over 5GB of data on a phone as it would be on a notebook PC connected via WiFi to that phone.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

Leigh Beadon, If it is a computer connected to your phone’s data plan, the phone is being used as a modem. It’s not a part of the contracted data plan for a phone to be a modem. If it were a hot spot modem device (yes as a Sprint customer, I know they have them) the cap will be gone. The cap only applies to using your phone as a hot spot.

I kind of wonder what the logic is in teathering now because of how easy it is to browse now on a phone compated to what it was 3 or 4 years ago.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

Leigh Beadon, If it is a computer connected to your phone’s data plan, the phone is being used as a modem. It’s not a part of the contracted data plan for a phone to be a modem. If it were a hot spot modem device (yes as a Sprint customer, I know they have them) the cap will be gone. The cap only applies to using your phone as a hot spot.

You seem to have missed the point, spectacularly.

All those things you are talking about are the same. Mobile browsing, tethering, mobile hotspot – all exactly the same thing in terms of the product you are paying the telcos for, which is data. “Unlimited data” has the same definition no matter what device you are talking about.

If you think that those things are all actually different services, then you’ve swallowed their money-gouging lie hook line and sinker.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Slightly inaccurate

The data caps are for the mobile hot spot/use your phone as a modem option. The screen shot of the webpage is for a mobile phone plan with unlimited data. These are separate plans/features.

The separation is pretty meaningless in reality, as data is data.

But the larger point is that they’re advertising claims mocking the idea that you might have to keep track of your data — and that it’s a “dilemma” you shouldn’t have. But their own plans have that same dilemma.

Pretty ridiculous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Slightly inaccurate

As far as I can recall, the mobile phone rocketing skyward through the 5GB line on the TV ad didn’t have a notebook PC magnetically pulled behind it.

Your phone can still fly, but your notebook is going to have to stay on earth. You’ll need to get your DSL or cable plan back now, so sorry!

DogBreath says:

Re: Slightly inaccurate

These are separate plans/features.

i.e. – more ways to stick it to you for using the bytes in the way you want to, and that you already paid for in your original contract.

p.s. and as for this only applying to “data caps are for the mobile hot spot/use your phone as a modem option” now, just wait. It will apply to all your other data in the future too. Businesses don’t screw all of their customers at once, that’s bad for their profit margin. They only screw them a little at a time and hope they don’t notice as much.

On a sidenote, and as usual, AT&T will again be at the head of the pack on the screwing:

No more cell phone minutes? AT&T expects data-only plans in two years
Jun 1, 2012

AT&T’s chief executive expects the industry to offer data-only cell phone plans within two years, potentially replacing cell phone minutes and text message counts with a single counter logging megabytes and gigabytes.

“In such a scenario, phone calls would be considered just another form of data,” the Associated Press notes in a recap of AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s remarks Friday morning in a New York conference hosted by investment firm Bernstein Global Wealth Management.

Already, services like Skype are replacing some traditional voice calls, and services like iMessage are replacing some text messaging. The AP notes that “phone companies still make most of their money from calling plans and texting, which use very little data.” The trend of carriers moving from unlimited plans to data caps isn’t a good one for customers, but whether moving to a data-only model would help or hurt consumers is hard to say until actual pricing and plans are revealed.

Harrekki (profile) says:

I know you have some time (90 days i think? correct me if wrong) to drop your service with no ETA fee. But all the cell companies have been able to bend you over and poke as hard as they want since the beginning of time.

oh, and no amount of crying to the BBB is going to help. they are too big to care about the BBB. and the AG’s are usually in their pockets (or lobbyist got to them already)

The theory is, “don’t like it? start your own cell company” which they know you can’t do.

Go USA! /sarcasm

iambinarymind (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Please don’t advocate the use of the State, which is funded through theft/coercion (“taxation”). Advocating State action is to advocate further theft/coercion or in simpler terms, violence.

There are ways to work this out without resorting to the violence of the State.

The answer is voluntary exchange and respect for inherent property rights (via self ownership).

3G4G5? says:

Re: Re: Re:

LOL FTC can’t blow its nose without these companies. Sprint will probably say the ad was run in a different time zone anyway.. and that in reality, there is nothing truly unlimited, so it was virtually impossible to begin with. Even the cosmos has limits, like the speed of light or Bill Gate’s thought processes.. The Peoples’ Cell phone company or PCP, Inc sort of has a nice ring to it?!

I’m Kidding.. Geeze!

Blaine (profile) says:

Hotspot only?

While I do not like the change here, I believe it is only capped when you use your phone as a hotspot (tether) for a pc or other wifi device. The data used by the phone (what the commercials are talking about) should still be unlimited. I only bring this up as a clarification, not a fan boy defense, and I may be wrong.

Of course if your phone is rooted you can add a tether that doesnt go through their plan and still get unlimited. Or so those bad pirate oriented people tell me.

If Sprint does actually limit my unlimited plan, that counts as a material change to my contract and I will use that to leave them and not pay an early term fee.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hotspot only?

Yeah, maybe also try to go through the FTC. If they’re implementing this in a month then why are they still running adverts contrary to this. Honestly the only reason my wife signed up for the data tethering plan is that it came with extra bandwidth on a limited data plan. There’s no reason to use their hotspot apps just so they can charge you more.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Hotspot only?

You’ are correct there 🙂 this applies to tethering only. They have their own mobile hotspot service on a bit of higher bandwidth. Also, they recently got approval by the FCC to be in the 800MHz radio frequency range. This range is actually shared by law enforcement and emergency services here in the US. So this idea is designed to quell interference in bandwidth, not to prevent piracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

uh… while i agree this is a bad move for sprint, this is not a surprise. this was announced some time ago (though i am not sure there as a date associated with it)

the cell modems got changed to a tiered plan already.

the ‘unlimited’ is for use on the phone. probably not the clearest of ads, but that is what they are promoting.

it still sucks, surprise or no.

Glen says:

Re: Re:

What is really sad is they still deny there is a problem with their 3G network. It is really unusable. I have called to complain and you get this knee jerk response about how it is the phone. I have tried repeatedly to tell them it is NOT the damn phone because others I know on the same network have complained.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m not a fan of any of them.Especially sprint!
But you gotta do business with someone if you want a phone.
I use clear’s wimax hotspot for my main internet connection and its works perfect for my needs. Desktop,Laptop, or smart phone it’s all the same with no caps and speeds sometimes up to 11mbs,but usually around 3 all the time, and wherever I’m at.
So it does work well for some people.
But I definitely don’t recommend Sprint or AT&T, if you can keep from it.

The Original Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I still have unlimited data bandwidth through T-Mobile

My T-Mobile non-contract family plan still provides me with unlimited data, unlimited voice, and unlimited text and that includes tethering use for an extra $10 per month. My only issue is that I live in an area with mostly EDGE coverage so I never actually get close to 5GB per month. LOL!

BTW – I don’t think that T-Mobile offers this type of account anymore, so I guess that I am one of the lucky ones with this kind of grandfathered setup.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Re: I still have unlimited data bandwidth through T-Mobile

I was just looking at my T-Mobile account and noticed they’re offering a family plan for $100 (for 2 lines), though it doesn’t include data. Everything else is unlimited.

So… kinda, but not really. And unless I simply missed it before, it looks like they’ve added it in the past month or so.

At this time I’m paying $20/mo for unlimited data for my G1 (required with the G1). I’ve switched to a Crackberry and hope to kill the data plan. I hardly use it at all. But the point is that it’s probably $20/mo per line to add unlimited data.

Cory of PC (profile) says:

Well, I feel like discussing this, but it kinda goes along with what you’re doing with your phone. My parents do the same thing with how they get onto the Internet, but we use AT&T instead and the interesting thing is that their data plan cost them $15 and it has been that way for a long time now (considering today’s prices, that REALLY a steal!) And really the plan is for Internet (along with the regular phone calls and such, no texting plan) and I have no idea what the cap is for the Internet with their plan, but it was good that you can get Internet off your phone through a tethering system for a cheap price. Heck if this was an option (and I’m certain you can’t get this separately)… actually, it would be pretty expensive, but why can’t these people try to do bargains to get people to buy these products and their plans?

Granted this plan of my parents is good for only ONE phone (which belongs to my father), it’s still not a bad deal in the end. Having to pay $50 for a limit on how much data we can use (especially when I’m a heavy consumer)… that seems too much for anyone, even me. I can only wish that someone gets their act together and listen to the PUBLIC, the CONSUMERS!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You would think that by saying “up to unlimited” would mean that somewhere in their coverage area they have clients that actually can get unlimited bandwidth usage. Otherwise they could sell you an “up to unlimited” data service with only 100Mb/mo (not that they would stay in business that long). I know as far as bandwidth speeds the up to is to cover their asses because they can’t provide the top speed in all areas or at all times due to deployment limitations or network congestion. But this usually means that somewhere in their coverage area they offer that max theoretical speed. For example, my isp offers up to 12Mbs, they sold me 6Mbs, gave me 3Mbs at the 12Mbs price, then offered to charge me more to get up to 6Mbs. If they say “up to” it must be possible to reach that condition (even if the condition is impossible like unlimited).

PlagueSD says:

Re: Re:

Don’t know what rock you’ve been living under. TV’s have ALWAYS been measured diagonally. It’s easier to represent a screen size as one number. With the new 16:9 ratio widescreen displays, the diagonal number is now bigger, because the screen is wider.

TV’s originally had a round screen, so the size was the diameter. As you know, the diameter of a circle can be measured at ANY angle. As TV’s lost the “round” shape and became square, the diameter measurement turned into a corner to corner diagonal measurement – which is today’s standard of measuring displays.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don’t count on the FCC to be fast to go after them for this blatant lie in their ads.

Verizon switched from advertising locking in your price for your whole life to for just a few years while still calling it life, and got away with it.

Jetta did even worse, claiming you could get over 50 MPG driving their car, while going ‘voom voom’ (in their own words) as much as you want, despite the fact that the government only gave them a 35 MPG rating, and it’s ILLEGAL for companies to advertise different numbers. (The 50 MPG rating was from some guy who drove to all 48 of the mainland states in a Jetta car getting that kind of mileage by going real slow and rarely pushing the gas pedal, not by going 80+ miles an hour on the highway like Jetta ads implied).

Watchit (profile) says:

Spectrum Crunch

As much as Sprints sudden cap of data really sucks, it’s kinda becoming required for wireless communications companies in order to keep data usage down because of spectrum crunch…

For those of you unaware of spectrum crunch, it basically means the airwaves will eventually run out of room for data transfer, from the exponential increase in data usage. estimated to happen around 2014 unless we free up more space.

This is at least partly the reason for the lack of “unlimited plans” these days.

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Spectrum Crunch

Yes, it’s true not everyone will be on at the same time, but what about those peak hours? There’s only a limited amount of spectrum that can viably used for data transfer, and the amount of data being transferred has been increasing exponentially as more and more people gain faster internet speeds and the files being transferred are getting larger as well. And even if your not directly downloading something to your computer, even casual browsing takes up more data usage than it did in the past.

If you have a couple minutes, these guys explain it much better than I.


Jake (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Spectrum Crunch

Just to be clear the spectrum crunch has nothing to do with data caps. The spectrum crunch refers to how fast data moves not how much data. The only way that the users can help with the spectrum crunch is to have less users.

Think of it like this. Say there was a water pipe running down your street. This pipe pumps one gallon of water per hour. If five people are connected to the pipe, each person is getting 1/5 of a gallon of water every hour. To increase that speed, you need to either increase the size of the pipe or remove a user from the pipe. Telling a person that they can only have 20 gallons of water a month does very little to help that speed when all the people are using the water at the same time. There are some instances when it would help, but for the most part, people are just going to start using water only when they need it the most. They will still tend to use the water at the same time and the water will still pump at the same speed. The only thing that will happen is that the pipe will be unused at all during random hours as people try to conserve and not go over the limit.

The fact that people but into the “data caps to combat the spectrum crunch” lie, really irritates me, because it it blatant misdirection in an attempt to increase profits.

CrushU says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Spectrum Crunch

More accurately, Spectrum Crunch refers to the fact that eventually, people will need to have 1/5th gallon of water per hour, yet there will be 100 people on that 1 gph pipe. Currently, there is room to expand to a 10 gph pipe, and the cell companies aren’t, but unless new technology comes along, there isn’t anywhere else to expand to after that anyway. And we still have 100 users demanding 1/5th gallon per hour.

Data caps are not a solution. It’s an attempt to wring as much money as possible out before the impending implosion. But Spectrum Crunch does exist. There’s a slight analog when you look at data speeds over normal lines; there’s only so fast that the data can go before it loses coherency.

(The frequencies suitable for broadband transmission are finite in number.
Every connection to a tower must have a unique way of identifying itself, to make sure it gets the data it requests.
To serve multiple people at once, the most common solution is to intersperse packets at the same frequency, and then to use another frequency or a wider frequency range once you have more requests than room in that one frequency.
You cannot use frequencies that are too close to each other, or you get the wireless version of crosstalk, corruption of the datastream in both frequency.
Once you run out of available frequencies, the only solution currently available is to have more packet interspersing within the frequencies we use, which slows down the connection for everyone. People get less packets/second, thus less speed.
RIGHT NOW, we’re ok and nothing needs to be done, but projections show within five years we are going to run out of bandwidth to keep up with usage, and speeds will hit a rather firm ceiling unless something is done.)

wizened (profile) says:

Re: Spectrum Crunch

Your explanation still does nothing to address the problem being discussed which is a company that promises and contracts to deliver one thing and then delivers less than promised while still advertising that they deliver more. The problem here isn’t spectrum crunch it’s lying to the customers and then screwing them up the back side. A contract should be a contract but companies like this constantly feel like they have the right to arbitrarily change the terms of the agreement on they fly and anytime they want. A privilege that you, as the other party in the contract, have no power to do. It used to be that this would be called an “unconscionable contract” and declared null by the courts but that was before the companies owned the world and the government and the courts.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Spectrum Crunch

For those of you unaware of spectrum crunch, it basically means the airwaves will eventually run out of room for data transfer, from the exponential increase in data usage. estimated to happen around 2014 unless we free up more space.

Spectrum crunch is a made up term by people trying to trick you into believing you need to pay more for bandwidth. Yes, there are bandwidth limitations, but there are also technical ways around them for the most part, which do not require broadband caps.

Don’t believe the hype.

Mesonoxian Eve (profile) says:

I need some assistance in understanding the “data is data” position, because what I was told, it’s not the same when it hits a point and has to be carried differently, hence the separate charges.

It is my understanding the data transfer from the PC to the phone (data) doesn’t use the same signal as transferring the data from the phone to the tower.

PCs don’t come with cell technology, but WiFi, and it’s this WiFi signal that’s translated to the 3G/4G signal used by cell communication.

Is this not correct? I was just told this recently by a sales rep at T-Mobile when I questioned why our phones should even come with 4G if WiFi is the “preferred” method to use the phone.

I also got the same type of answer from the cable company, to stated the charges for three separate options were due to the transmissions of those signals to be carried on lines which are dedicated to the broadcast signals (aka: phone calls don’t travel to a cable network carrier line, but to a digital switch box, and the separate fees is how they maintain balancing payments to each other).

I’ve also wondered why we’re being charged for so many little things when everything goes through the same signal eventually, but this seems more a back-end accounting issue than a customer service relation issue.

Benjo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As a embedded systems engineer, I can tell you that it would be very hard for sprint to tell the difference between using your 3/4g Mobile service to browse and using a rooted phone with a tethering app. The data is data argument is completely true.

I’m guessing that users that use their phones as tethering devices tend to use more data, and this is some executives bad idea at monetizing those users (who will probably end up leaving, myself potentially included).

My advice to Mike and others, root your phone and download a tethering app (maybe a proxy service). The inconvenience definitely has a price though.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The connection from your PC to your phone is strictly local signal – there’s no involvement with your ISP at all. Wifi is the preferred method for PCs and phones to talk to each other, more than likely because its far easier and cheaper for either yourself or the PC manufacturer to equip Wifi functionality than it is 4G.
When tethering, your PC is connected to the phone (local Wifi signal) and the phone is connected to your ISP (4G signal). You on your PC fire up your browser, type in a web site, and your PC tells your phone to get the data for that page. The phone then requests that data from the ISP and receives it, then fires it back at the PC.
The situation is ENTIRELY the same if you weren’t tethering. There is no difference whatsoever on the ISP end if you’re tethering or not: its still a phone asking them for data. So when they charge you extra for tethering, they’re not recouping any costs at all. Its pure profit.

Brent (profile) says:

As others have said, i’m hugely disappointed by this. While the article is misleading in saying Sprint no longer offers unlimited mobile data when it is only the hotspot getting capped, the reality is that soon their unlimited data plans will go away as well. I have been waiting for my iPhone contract to expire for 3 years but thanks to their policy of allowing family members to steal upgrades (which extends the contract on the phone number the upgrade was available for, not phone number the upgrade was actually used for). My wife got a Sprint iPhone 4s b/c they were the last to have unlimited data and i planned to join sprint in November when i can ditch big red and greedy data caps. I may not make it in time before they change their actual data plans and not just the feature of them.

Also, to the author – Jailbreak or root your phone and install an app that tells the phone the data is coming from the browser rather than the hotspot and then cancel that extra feature. you’ll still have unlimited mobile hotspot and unlimited data but w/o the monthly fee. Most apps available in the unlocked markets work this way.

Jack Furlong (profile) says:

Vote with Your dollars

If everyone would cancel their contracts and hand back their devices when changes like this occur, the service providers would soon quit this foolishness.

As long as Service providers can depend on customers just complaining and continuing to pay them, they have no reason to stop gouging. They know that even if they lose a handful of customers, there are plenty more who will buy their misrepresentations.

If you don’t like contract changes, ditch your phone, and tell the provider WHY. Leave your money in your pocket, and don’t give it to corporate liars.

A suggestion; if you MUST make phone calls and can disconnect yourself from mobile internet, get a “pay as you go” phone from the local Walmart, and make do. Your wallet will thank you!

I Kalbolshoi says:

Unlimited Limited Limited Unlimited

It’s called “marketing”. The old-fashioned term is “lying”.

Re-inventing the language is just designed to obfuscate the truth. It is very widely practiced.

Why not? The “news” does it. The government does it. Hell, even the Prez does it! (Just ask President Obummer, who followed in the fine presidential tradition of his lying predecessor, what an “Enemy Combatant” is.)

Although heavily practiced in the US, lying is not limited to the US – one need look no farther afield than Canada’s telecom fiasco for proof of rampant lying, er marketing.

Greevar (profile) says:

Slightly inaccurate

Correct, data usage doesn’t present a problem for an ISP, unless you’ve oversold your bandwidth. Bandwidth is like space in a room. ISP’s rent out the space on their network so that you can have a path to get to the server you’re trying to contact. You’re paying for a spot to occupy on the network, so it shouldn’t matter how much or often you use it. ISP’s, however, tend to sell more spots than they actually have under the assumption that not everybody or very few will be using it 24/7. Others can occupy it while you’re not, but that presents a problem that then the user can only occupy it if nobody else is. If the network is at full load, no new connections can be made, so they mitigate this by capping usage. They want to keep expanding their customer base. Since they don’t have more slots to give out, they have to put limits on the existing slots. As more and more people subscribe, the limits get smaller and smaller.

The dilemma isn’t in the data usage, but in the ISP’s unwillingness/inability to find new spectrum or use what they have more efficiently.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Slightly inaccurate

This. The problem is the ISP and Carriers are refusing to upgrade their networks, so they make claims that there is only so much space and then try and charge us, the customers, a premium for it. We’re told they plan on upgrading their networks, which they never do. Only when they have literally no choice but to upgrade their networks, do they and will they. We’ve had “4G” for “years” now, yet no true 4G exist in the U.S. Well, not true. It’s opened up already in a handful of markets, but they’ve been using that as a lure for people despite it not even existing really. The sad fact is though that many people are unaware of this. I routinely point this out to people and most start arguing with me that we do indeed have 4G because they’re told we do.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Slightly inaccurate

Used to be, back in the day, that selling something you didn’t actually have was called “fraud.” It was a crime, and doing it could land you in jail.

Then we started letting airlines get away with it. And now it looks like cellphone carriers are jumping on the bandwagon too.

Anyone else want the simple, common-sense definition of fraud back?

Cerberus (profile) says:

1 GB of mobile data costs $ 1 to providers, apparently.

That is truly frustrating. And that while mobile data are said to cost about $ 1 per GB to mobile providers (I have read that at several places around the internet). It could be a bit more, but not much. I read that it is even $ 0.50 for some Chinese providers. So the main reason why they do this is not because it is too expensive to maintain for them, but because they try to drive you away from mobile data into more costly regular calls, text messages, and possibly even landline internet.

keith (profile) says:

not surprised

Watch out – I’m guessing the big providers will start offering very cheap ‘capped’ plans for home/residential use and start raising the cost of unlimited plans.

Capping the bandwidth at 5gigs effectively kills most forms of file sharing, a key initiative for ‘fighting piracy’. And no, they don’t care about civilian causalities.

I’m guessing we only have about a year or two until we will see ‘special’ zones that allow data transfers without counting towards your cap. These will be setup via sweat heart deals between the provider and their new service or partner. Want to compete w/ YouTube? Or Netflix? Pay an additional fee and now you are the preferred avenue for all of a networks cell users.

Another likely scenario is we end up seeing all the major, entrenched apps (like youtube, netflix, facebook, Xbox, Playstation) get ‘free bandwidth’ to the user (ie – doesn’t count against your cap)… which they of course pay the providers for the privilege. This raises the cost of entry for new startups in that space, and helps keep the user on their service.

Mike has talked alot about ‘transaction costs’ .. users will unconsciously feel a higher transaction cost when using a service that counts against their cap, and thus gravitate away from or limit their usages. Pretty good way of keeping the status-quo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If you’re using a Mobile Hotspot device (that isn’t a cell phone) then no, because obviously you’re paying for a tethering device and the plan to tether from the get go that goes along with it.

If however you are using a smartphone, then the answer is YES. In order to tether, you’re supposed to pay a separate fee and Sprint will activate the feature for you. You’ll get a “Sprint Mobile Hotspot” app that you then turn on and there you go. Of course, it’s a feature built into most smartphones which they block or disable in order to keep you from tethering. But there are a ton of ways to get around that, from simple app installs to rooting to flashing new ROMs, etc.

Wally says:


I don’t see how it takes you all a paragraph to complain. In fact, why complain at all. The unlimited plan is truly unlimited. No data caps. Just don’t use your Phone as a modem…that’s all the data cap applies in the unlimited plan. I’m a Sprint user and I assure you It has always been there and why use my phone as a modem when they have a much faster hot spot service you can apply to?

Yankee Infidel (profile) says:

tethering vs. untethered


I just wanted to point out that the Everything Data Plan assumes just using the phone as the only device making use of the cellular data connection.

The 5 GB limit is for any type of tethering option (including having your phone act as a WiFi hotspot). I personally do not like those restrictions, but at least I can still use my Android phone straight-up without worrying about data overages on Sprint.

A says:


Correct, if they are stating in a formal address that they are changing their service then there’s nothing you can really do. I’m sure sprint has something to where the grandfathered in spring users are A going to be changed unless you are truely paying for Umlimited Service. In the 1st pic, it doesn’t show the whole story.

fed up says:

This is starting to piss me off!!!

First off let me start by saying I realize this has been said before, but due to the declining IQ of our world I believe it needs to be said again. Your hot spot feature is something completely different. You still have unlimited access on your phone. I know… I know… But I am using my phone! No you are using your phone as an access point to the internet for you computer or what ever else you might have connected to it. Here is an idea root your phone and unlock the hot spot. If you do it right they can’t tell. Lets make this clear Sprint and almost every other company in the world is there to make money. They are there to allow people not unlike yourself to make a living and provide for themselves and families. It seems like more and more people have come out blaming, what seems like, every company out there for being the Devil. I realize that there are company’s that take bailouts and go buy helicopter’s and crap like that while their employee’s lose their life savings in a company stock plan. This is something sprint has struggled with for a long time and now the are one of the last to finally give in. So bottom line of the story is NO they have not tried to deceive you in any way. You just think you have found something that will get attention, and it has, so you can sell a story or tell some half wasted chick at the bar you just published another piece. So if you don’t like it try Boost Mobile even cheaper and unlimited everything. Just realize you are going to have to give up something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Slightly inaccurate

“Let’s not be disingenuous. The difference is that is far harder to use over 5GB of data on a phone as it would be on a notebook PC connected via WiFi to that phone.”

Actually, it’s disingenuous to say it’s far harder to use over 5 GB of data on a phone as it would be to use on a laptop connected to said phone.

Unless of course you neverstream music or Netflix videos, you do almost no web browsing, do not download any apps or data for said apps, or anything even remotely related to any of that.

In which case, you’re right. It’s far harder to use 5 GB of data on a phone than a laptop connected to a phone. But if that’s the case (per the previous NEVER use examples), this kind of thing won’t be a problem. However, your average smartphone user is more than likely coming quite close to those data caps on a much more regular basis.

Ryan Quinlan says:


First of all! This is nothing new with Sprint. Sprint changed these data plans back in September 2011.
Sprint advertises and has Unlimited Data. In the advertisements, Sprint is specifically advertising the use of a cell phone. And while all other companies, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all have limits on their data that can be used on the cell phone, SPRINT has remained UNLIMITED.
Sprint is no longer unlimited for phone as modem, and their data card plans. But again, they are unlimited for their cellular phone data plans!

What people don’t understand is as more people use more data. The cellular companies have to impose rates, since the cellular companies have to pay for the data that is used. So each GB of data that is used, the companies are having to pay a charge for that. It is not unlimited data for them… So as Sprint currently has unlimited data for their cell phone plans, and as much as Sprint will try and keep those plans unlimited for as long as possible. Sprint will NOT be able to keep unlimited data forever. Because eventually it will start to lose money on that and will need to impose a rate change…

So no, the FCC or anyone else will be able to do anything for you here. And yes Sprint can change their plans at anytime. Your contract doesn’t say that they have to keep the same plan… As seen lately with Verizon and AT&T changing the limits on their data plans.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Your story is wrong

Joey, the point is that they SHOULD be the same as phone data. There is no reason (outside of misleading customers) to have those two things separated and charged for differently.

I’m fine with QoS…. but restrictions like these, when they are artificial restrictions, I am damned well not and I think that these companies should be rapped on the hand with a 2 ton stone hammer.

Jacob Mathew says:

Yeah they got me too...sad, mad, frustrated customer

Thanks for putting this up. where do we compain ?

I was a mi fi user for years with sprint..always been with them. talk about being loyal ..ugggghh

i decided to upgrade to the sierrra wireless to get 4 G speeds. The sprint rep i talked to said he can get me on there with no change in my plan and infact it would be cheaper by 5 usd compared to the 49.99 i was paying for unlimited data.

Lo and behold, i got my bill and it was 300 plus usd. I called and complained a lot and got an adjustment to cut the bill to 148, while at the same time, i upgraded to go with their 12 GB plan (the only highest one they have) and would incur a 79.99 usd , month plan rate. I also went with it when they tole me that my usage the previous month was about 12 GB…okay i thought.

and just today, i learned i have an overage (18 GB ) and was charged 225 usd for my overages…so another 325 usd bill….ugggg..when i talked to them last month and when they switched me over to the 12 GB plan, they promised me that their system would alert me when i get close to the cap on the plan///I Got no such notice.

sooooo frustrating…now i am thinking of canceling and wondering what they will charge me for cancelling ? any ideas…suggestions on other services that provide truly unlimited data plan..


B.O. says:

Sprint Hotspot Changes

I agree with you 100%; There is no reason to stay with Sprint anymore since they have stolen our unlimited Hotspot plan. I am reporting them to PUC and suggest everyone affected do the same and call and complain. I completed disconnected the hotspot and I feel we should be grandfathered in, since we had it since the beginning. Lets do a class-action lawsuit.

Sprint has lost my respect and I will go with another carrier soon.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I?ve never quite understood why everybody seems to think gaming takes a lot of bandwidth.

Depending on the game, you could use a good chunk of a 5GB cap. I think one major problem though is people know you need a “fast” internet connection for good gaming. What’s important though is low latency, not big bandwidth. However I suspect most people have no idea what that means, even many gamers.

RuthW says:

Uh, no...they cap everything now.

I’ve had my phone for just two months now. What was advertised as “there’s no way you’ll go over 5GB of data in a month, so it’s unlimited data” was not so. I had the phone ONE WEEK, was NOT tethering it (as they killed the ability to do that with this phone back in August, apparently, and I got it for the tethering without being told that), and still managed to go over 5GB within a week! Got charged the extra $50 AND they throttled my service (and only allowed 2.5GB more, to boot). I would have event back to Boost as they had been the last people with true unlimited data, and it seems they are changing that in November. What can you do?

tress (profile) says:

True sprint fraud

I wanted to let you know about the fraud perpetrated on me by sprint. Where they gave me a contract to keep me has a customer for a hotspot with unlimited data for 29.99 and then after my 14 days was up to cancel me hot spot and phone they tell me that they will not honor the contract but will gladly give me a plan for 59.99 for 6 gig. Hear is the letter I sent to every corporate email I could find for Sprint I still have not got a response.
Tress Chapin

I walk in to your San Diego on Oct 30th to cancel my service. In order to keep me has a costumer the store employee offered me a overdrive hotspot with unlimited data for $29.99. It shows up in my account but it has never worked. I have taken it into stores all across the country and everyone has just blown me off. I call customer support and was told the network is having problems and will be fixed on the 16th still not working. Finally at the sprint store in Rochester NY Vince took the afternoon to dig into the problem and found out the my account was not right he put in his notes that the account would have to be deleted and set back up again.
I called customer support giving them this information and they keep telling me there was nothing wrong with the account. At the end of the first hour I asked to speak to a supervisor and was told to hold. A women came on the line and just started to go over the same garbage has the first guy. I get her to read the notes or so i think and she tells me that she has deleted the account and set up a new of course is still does not work. At the end of the hour I find out she is not the supervisor. And I demand to talk to a supervisor she puts me though to Johnathan Moore he tells me his employee number is jo697522. He informs me that no one could have deleted my account and restarted it. That account services can not even do that without me giving up my plan with the unlimited data. He will however have account services call me. I ask for his information so I can call him back to make sure he was not lying to me also. He tells me I can call 866-556-7310 and give them his employee number and they will put me though to him. So I call right back and it’s another lie.
The women I talk to this time tells me that I can’t keep the plan I was contracted for that I now have to switch it to $59.99 for 6 gig. She put me though to Alvan Gray her supervisor he admits I have a unlimited contract for 29.99 on my contract but refuses to honor it and would be happy to set me up with the 59.99 plan. I told him to leave it just the way it is and I will be sending all this information to every tech blogger I can find and every newspaper because it is out and out fraud a classic bait and switch. I will also be forwarding this to the Atorney General for California. And he terminated the conversation. Every time I call you say the call will be recorded please review the tapes to see that I am telling the truth about everything. All I want is what I am contracted for.

Tress Chapin

Sent from my iPad

The latest is that they would gladly cancel my hot spot that has never worked and because they are a kind company they will not even charge me a early termination fee. However they will not cancel my phone contract that I went in to close which prompted them to offer me the deal.

Richard Lynes says:

Aprint's misleading 4G ads and sales pitches

Regardless of their new data rate policy I purchased a Motorola Phantom 4G 18 months ago after talking with a sales rep in a local store about the 4G coverage in my area. Needless to say he stated that there is 4G service in my calling area and that?s why I paid $200 for a 4G smart phone, however 18 months later and there is still zero 4G service anywhere in Augusta, GA. Shame on me for being stupid enough to think I could trust a Sprint representative. I think this is clearly a breach of contract, as well as unethical business practices, and I should be able to get out of my contract without paying their crazy fees, you can have the phone back too. I am sure there are thousands of Sprint customers that feel the same way, we have been scammed and a class action suit should be brought against them.

Richard Lynes says:

Aprint's misleading 4G ads and sales pitches

Regardless of their new data rate policy I purchased a Motorola Phantom 4G 18 months ago after talking with a sales rep in a local store about the 4G coverage in my area. Needless to say he stated that there is 4G service in my calling area and that?s why I paid $200 for a 4G smart phone, however 18 months later and there is still zero 4G service anywhere in Augusta, GA. Shame on me for being stupid enough to think I could trust a Sprint representative. I think this is clearly a breach of contract, as well as unethical business practices, and I should be able to get out of my contract without paying their crazy fees, you can have the phone back too. I am sure there are thousands of Sprint customers that feel the same way, we have been scammed and a class action suit should be brought against them.

Ralph Nader says:

Slightly inaccurate

Ya, I notice that when I download movies (some 4GB in size) I can in 4G (in the same location). Then I hit about 20-25GB in two weeks. All of a sudden then my 4G capable Phone signal mysteriously only wants to connect to the 3G signal (in the same location). Coincidence? I think not! I get it. I get it. I am a fattie when it comes to acquiring data from Sprint. But, don’t advertise all you can eat, when you actually get a customer that wants to eat all he/she can!!!!!!!

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