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
    keith (profile), 5 Jun 2012 @ 12:29pm

    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.

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