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.

Filed Under: advertising, bait and switch, broadband, data caps, ftc, wireless
Companies: sprint


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  1. icon
    Greevar (profile), 5 Jun 2012 @ 12:04pm

    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.

    TL;DR:

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

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