Sprint Plans To Kill The One Thing That People Liked About It: Unlimited Data

from the shoot-yourself-in-the-foot dept

Before the FCC’s new net neutrality rules went into effect, Sprint surprised a few people by coming out in favor of Title II based net neutrality rules, making them the only one of the big four carriers to clearly and publicly support the shift. Now news reports also suggest that while T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon continue to throttle customers (unlimited or otherwise), Sprint has announced that just before the rules took effect the company decided to stop throttling its customers entirely, just to be on the safe side:

“Sprint, the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, had been intermittently choking off data speeds for its heaviest wireless Internet users when its network was clogged. But it stopped on Friday, when the government’s new net-neutrality rules went into effect….Sprint said it believes its policy would have been allowed under the rules, but dropped it just in case. “Sprint doesn’t expect users to notice any significant difference in their services now that we no longer engage in the process,” a Sprint spokesman said.

Specifics are skimpy as to precisely what Sprint was doing, but it seems likely that the company wasn’t entirely sure that it could prove the throttling was necessary due to network congestion. Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile continue to use throttling as a network management practice, but they apparently hope to use semantics to play patty cake with FCC lawyers should the commission have any problems with what they’re up to:

“T-Mobile spokespeople have been trying to convince Ars that “de-prioritization” isn’t actually “throttling.” Verizon has also claimed that its own “network optimization” isn’t throttling. The tactic is reminiscent of Comcast’s claim that its data caps aren’t actually “data caps.” Regardless of what semantics the carriers use, they are slowing down their customers.

T-Mobile’s policy is fairly generous, though. As of now, it applies only to unlimited customers who use more than 21GB of data in a month. Those customers are “de-prioritized for the remainder of the billing cycle in times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources.”

The semantics of the word “throttling” aside, the FCC has made it pretty clear the rules allow ISPs to use throttling as a network management tool to deal with congested networks, carriers just can’t use throttling and network management as a pretense to make an extra buck. And as we’ve seen with AT&T being sued by the FTC and fined by the FCC, regulators are making it pretty clear they won’t tolerate carriers that offer an “unlimited” service, then throttle it without making that clear to the end user. Watching the hammer come down on AT&T’s throttling of unlimited data plans specifically is likely what prompted Sprint to back off its own throttling practices.

Granted, Sprint has bigger problems than the FCC’s neutrality rules at the moment. The company continues to lag in last place in most network performance and customer satisfaction surveys, and has struggled to retain customers in the face of AT&T and Verizon’s superior networks, and T-Mobile’s consumer-friendly theatrics. Sprint currently has to figure out how to repair and substantially expand a last-place network while managing to nab market share from the other three carriers. So far, there’s every indication that the company isn’t going to be able to do that and compete on price at the same time. New company CEO Marcelo Claure has now suggested several times the company is going to kill one of the few things customers like about Sprint: unlimited data.

So while it’s great that Sprint’s so enthusiastic about complying with the FCC’s new net neutrality rules, that won’t mean much to consumers if Sprint implodes, or decides to weaken the competitive field by pricing services just like AT&T and Verizon.

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Comments on “Sprint Plans To Kill The One Thing That People Liked About It: Unlimited Data”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

In which case the title should be changed. It’s an entire article discussing how Sprint is stopping it’s throttling. And a single sentence blurb about the title that fucking explains nothing, just gives a link to another website if you actually want to learn a damn thing about what the title says.

Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I tend to agree with you. I floated between two titles, but found the fact that they’re killing unlimited data to be more interesting than the fact they backed off throttling unlimited data, so I went with the former as a title, thinking users would read through for full context and background. In the process I probably buried the lede pretty painfully, sorry.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Let me rephrase. This article title is click bait. The article has fuck all to do with Sprint planning to end unlimited data. I saw the title, and read the article to learn:

-When Sprint said this, and the reliability of the statement or if it was just a rumor.
-The likelihood they would actually carry through with this.
-When and how unlimited data plans would actually be terminated, or if they’d simply be no longer offering it to newcomers and people making changes to their plan.
-The likely impact on the price of their services.

Those are the things that would actually make the article about Sprint planning to end unlimited data. It has none of them. This article is wholly about “Sprint ends throttling practices”. A single sentence linking to an article that actually is about the title does not change that. This isn’t burying the lead, this is an article that has nothing to do with the title. You could move that one sentence to the top, and it would not change that, and suddenly make the article accurate to the title.

Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“The article has fuck all to do with Sprint planning to end unlimited data.”

As noted I get your point about the headline, but this comment suggests to me you didn’t actually read the last two paragraphs of the story, as the other commenter noted, and don’t actually care about the background details in regards to neutrality (which are important). Needless to say, I shant disappoint you again. 🙂

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Unlimited data is the only reason my sister has Sprint. Outside of that, she is not pleased. I’d bet that she’s going to switch back to Verizon soon.

T-Mobile does have unlimited data. Not that “Unlimited” plan that they advertise that gets throttled after 7G, they have a truly unlimited data plan (I think it’s actually called “Truly Unlimited”). They don’t advertise it, you can’t buy it online, and you have to spend lots of time explaining exactly what it is you want, but you can get truly unlimited from T-Mobile. It also costs $80-$90 a month.

Anonymous Coward says:

No significant difference

“Sprint doesn’t expect users to notice any significant difference in their services now that we no longer engage in the process,” a Sprint spokesman said.

…it seems likely that the company wasn’t entirely sure that it could prove the throttling was necessary due to network congestion.

Doesn’t the quote prove it was unnecessary, and they know it? If throttling were the only thing holding back congestion, their system would be immediately overloaded, and people would notice.

D says:

I'll bounce

If Sprint does away with unlimited data, then there is no reason for me to remain with them. I can go with T-Mobile to get unlimited data. Sprint’s network performance is in last place for a reason. Unlimited Data is the only reason I came to them and if they remove it, there is no reason to remain with them. They had better seriously consider this, because others will leave as well.

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