Sprint Realizing That Data Caps Turn Customers Off

from the about-time dept

Back when Sprint joined other mobile carriers in issuing a 5 GB limit on its EVDO connection, I was among those who noted that it was disappointing that the company sold me an "unlimited" service, and then changed the terms on me unilaterally. It also changed the way I used my EVDO card, making it significantly less useful and valuable for me. I don't want to be thinking about how much data I'm using (and it was especially difficult without a detailed system of tracking how much data you were using). I remember once, while traveling, I accidentally left the EVDO connection running over night, and got worried that Sprint might cut me off. It's just not worth it, and I've actually been thinking about dumping Sprint once my contract is up.

Apparently, I wasn't alone in thinking this and Sprint has noticed. With its new WiMax network, it has stayed away from talking about any caps, and has now admitted that the reaction to the EVDO caps is part of the reason why. They're afraid that, just as they're trying to convince people to use the WiMax network, they'll get scared off by caps. The problem, of course, is that these mobile broadband providers are fighting against themselves on these things. They want to convince the world that these networks are useful -- and to do that, you have to show all the cool things that you can do with them. But, if they haven't really invested enough in the networks, they can actually run into some congestion problems, and so they can't encourage you to use them too much. Hopefully, the investment into WiMax (or, potentially moving on to LTE) will mean that such congestion problems are mostly a thing of the past, and that it's not worth implementing caps.

That said, Sprint's admission of how people responded to the EVDO caps should be a clear warning to ISPs that keep trying to implement broadband caps or metered broadband. Doing so imposes additional costs that you might not have considered, such as the mental transaction costs your users face in determining if it's even worth using your network. Of course, ISPs should know this already. We already have a detailed case study in that AOL only really took off after it switched from hourly billing to an unlimited flat-rate. Why some ISPs want to go back to make their product less valuable is beyond me.

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  1. identicon
    ShellMG, 16 Jul 2010 @ 5:36am

    Babysitting internet usage is a full-time job. I had more than my fill of experience in that field when we had Wildblue. Since we're rural cable of fios will NEVER reach us so our options are few, and these damn caps make internet service more of a headache than anything else.

    If you're a single user with an aircard, it probably works fine. But what if you've got two teenagers who are home for the summer? You can ship them off to the library only so often, and I'm sure Wendy's is getting sick of them ordering budget burgers and camping out on their wifi all day. Monitoring usage among four people is IMPOSSIBLE and 5G caps just don't work. You start to play games with yourself, like trying to shut off ads before they load, asking "do I really need to look at that site? Do I really need to download that music file or read that article?" It leads to a pattern of constant self-rationing that will make you crazy. And for $60 a month? That's a payment on a root canal.

    I'm the holder of a precious Alltel grandfathered contract with VZW. NO overcharges. NO throttles. NO pain and suffering, gnashing of teeth when the bill comes. WiMAX just came through my area and I'll suffer slower speeds before I deal with a cap again.

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