Charter Spectrum's New 'Unlimited' Wireless Service Bans HD Video Entirely

from the just-the-beginning dept

Last week we noted how Comcast had imposed new limits on its shiny new "unlimited" wireless plans. The company informed users of its Xfinity Wireless service that moving forward, all video on the service would be throttled back to 480p, with plans to begin charging you more if you want to watch your video in full HD quality. As we noted then, this was just a continuation of a theme already established by wireless carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint, which involved imposing arbitrary throttling thresholds for games, music and video, then charging you additional money to get around those bogus limitations.

It shouldn't be particularly hard to see how imposing arbitrary limits that impede your ability to experience content as the originators intended sets a terrible precedent. And should the FCC's net neutrality repeal survive its looming legal challenge, you're going to see wireless carriers and ISPs slowly embrace more and more of this sort of thing, at least once they know for sure that the government has zero interest in actually policing such "creative" abuse of a broken market. What we're seeing now is just the orchestra getting warmed up.

Following on the heels of Comcast, Charter has launched its own wireless service offering that also promises users "unlimited" connectivity. But like Comcast's offering, Charter's service will also throttle all video to 480p. The company's Spectrum Mobile website explains how the industry's definition of "unlimited data" still leaves a little something to be desired:

"After 20 GB per line, you may experience reduced speeds for the rest of the bill cycle.

There are no additional fees for using your phone as a mobile hotspot. After 5 GB of mobile hotspot data use in the bill cycle, mobile hotspot speeds are reduced to a maximum of 600 kbps for the rest of the bill cycle. Mobile hotspot data counts toward your 20 GB high-speed data allowance. Remember, your laptop may consume more data than your phone would for similar activities.

DVD-quality video streaming is supported. Video typically streams at 480p."

As Sprint and T-Mobile try to sell regulators on their job and competition-eroding megamerger, one of their core justifications for the deal is that the reduction in total overall competitors from four to three is no big deal because cable operators are tinkering with wireless mitigating any real fallout. But that ignores a few things. Like the fact that T-Mobile's CEO previously laughed off these services as irrelevant and destined to fail. Or that Comcast and Charter lean on Verizon Wireless' network for backup, reducing their incentive to disrupt Verizon. And they've struck a deal that involves agreeing not to compete with each other.

As a result, Charter and Comcast's wireless plans are almost mirror images of one another, including the middle finger at net neutrality (aka your right to enjoy content as intended by the service you're subscribing to without your ISP injecting itself in the process to make an additional buck).

For now, Charter isn't charging you more to watch videos in actual HD, but you can be pretty certain that's coming down the road. With ISPs wary of the looming net neutrality court challenge, they're trying desperately to remain on their best behavior. As such, you're going to see very glacial moves toward tighter restrictions as these companies try to cash in on the one-two punch of limited competition and napping regulators like Ajit Pai. Initially -- like being unable to watch HD video on your phone -- they won't seem like the end of the world, but cumulatively and over time, you can be damn well assured it's going to hurt.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 6:28am

    Streaming at 480p will help you consume more video before reaching your 20GB high-speed cap. It's a feature, not a bug!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 6:38am

    'napping regulators like Ajit Pai'

    since when has he been napping? he's the fucking instigator of permissions for this shit to happen!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 6:42am

    When did the telcos change unlimited to mean that they have an unlimited right to dip into their customers wallets?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 6:48am

    I wish the government would solve all of our problems, and get involved these life-threatening important matters. I blame Republicans. I also wished Republicans would do something about the rising Netflix prices. I mean, what do we even pay them for? #resist

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:10am

      Re:

      I assume you're being sarcastic and are attempting to build a straw-man to argue against. I also assume you have no issue with this blatant false advertising because you read their use of "unlimited" as sarcastic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 8:14am

      Re: Resist

      I think you are trying to say that government can't fix this? Armed revolt doesn't see to be the answer, AC.
      Honestly, I think it's hilarious that on the one hand the trolls here love to remind us that no amount of government can help us. While at the same time saying that only government enforced copyright can save us.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 9:31am

      Re:

      Once again, effective government regulation DOES fix these problems elsewhere in the world. Why is yours so uniquely terrible at doing things that benefit the populace?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 1:08pm

      Re:

      How are you so bad at insulting the people you so despise? It’s alternately funny and depressing. Kinda like a puppy with a bucket on its head repeatedly running into a wall.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 6:57am

    **Definition of unlimited

    1 : lacking any controls : unrestricted unlimited access

    2 : boundless, infinite unlimited possibilities

    3 : not bounded by exceptions : undefined the unlimited and unconditional surrender of the enemy —Sir Winston Churchill**

    Maybe they mean quasi-unlimited. Don't we have some laws about truth in advertising?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:15am

      Re:

      Don't we have some laws about truth in advertising?

      Selectively enforced. Very selectively.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Superfluous Proxied Coward., 11 Jul 2018 @ 5:56pm

      Re: Definitions?

      The "cheese" on your cheeseburger can't legally be called cheese (because it's not cheese) but they do it anyway. Truth in advertising? There's way more regulation on political ads than service/product advertising.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sam Moses, 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:10am

    Woe doggie...

    Wait wait wait. Isn't this wireless service we're talking about here? Yes, terrestrial carriers are involved, but the services are wireless ones. I would recommend reading the net neutrality rules on this one. They've never covered wireless carriers. Even under the system with the FCC, this whole category of services would be exempt. You should probably know that before writing a piece like this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:20am

      Re: Woe doggie...

      My AT&T stock thanks you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 12:47pm

      Re: Woe doggie...

      Except oftentimes the connection starts as a wired one, only becoming wireless by a router in the customer's home. Arguably the only completely wireless connections are cellular and satellite as far as internet gose.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Doug Wheeler (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:23am

    What is a video?

    How are the telcos deciding what is a video? Does is have to use one of the streaming protocols or do they spy on/look at the content of every connection? What if the video is in a format they don't recognize, or includes embedded streams in addition to the standard audio and video streams? What if it's just a secure HTTPS connection?

    Also, can't the video sites sue the telcos for copyright infringement for modifying their stream?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:34am

      Re: What is a video?

      What they are doing is simply throttling connections to a data rate that is only good enough for 480p. The video source, noting this low data rate selects that resolution. If the accidentally throttle a files transfer, well it just takes longer. The don't need to look inside the stream at all, just decide the fastest data rate they will support on an individual stream.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Doug Wheeler (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:41am

        Re: Re: What is a video?

        That doesn't make sense. They claim they are always limiting videos to 480p, but are only throttling once you exceed your transfer limit (e.g., 20 GB). You're suggesting they are ALWAYS throttling to limit the videos to 480p, then throttling MORE after the limit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:50am

          Re: Re: Re: What is a video?

          Don't forget they have two levels of throttling that they can apply, one is to individual connections and streams, the second and more severe if for all data on the line. That is the difference between being able to stream multiple 480p videos, and only be able to stream one,with stuttering if you try to load a webpage at the same time.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            I.T. Guy, 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What is a video?

            Right. So what you are saying is their unlimited plans have extreme limits. Got it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 8:06am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What is a video?

              Did you not read the article, it tells of all sorts of limits on an supposedly unlimited plan.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          David, 11 Jul 2018 @ 8:29am

          Re: Re: Re: What is a video?

          They have your bandwidth and eat it, too.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 9:34am

          Re: Re: Re: What is a video?

          "You're suggesting they are ALWAYS throttling to limit the videos to 480p, then throttling MORE after the limit."

          Well, yes, that does seem pretty clear from the description. Did you think that they were telling the truth *before* hitting the limit about it being "unlimited" when the existence of that limit makes it a clear lie from the start?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2018 @ 8:07am

      ZOMBIE ALERT! TWO of 5-year gap "account's" 8 comments here!

      Not odd at all to make 8 comments over 6 years, then suddenly TWO on one minor topic, eh?

      Or more likely a Zombie Master keeps taking over old accounts to make the site look more interesting? -- Note also the many wacky names for one-time use (though have given up on "female" ones), and the entirely uniform supportive opinions those and the outright zombies have, never any actual dissent to Techdirt's views, all of which I find indicative.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 7:47am

    They really should stop calling these shit unlimited. If they had to add a pair of quotation marks for every caveat their unlimited branding includes it would be something like:

    SIGN UP FOR OUR """"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""unlimited"""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""" plan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 9:30am

    Point of Reference

    Unlimited is used here not to describe the usage of the service, but rather the fees to be charged...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 11 Jul 2018 @ 12:42pm

    So!

    you take a Youtube video,
    Hand it to a computer to CHANGE THE SIZE..
    Send it to your customer..
    Umm..ASK Youtube how EASY THIS IS..
    its not.
    YT, DOES, change the Videos themselves into Multiple formats and Sizes..BUT YOU LOOSE DETAIL..and thats BAD.

    What this gets the corps.,..
    WOW, not they have more bandwidth..Even if they promise(???) a certain speed, YOU WONT GET IT, because they restrict it.. They restrict those features that USE HIGH BANDWIDTH..
    Wondering the net, is nothing.
    Reading email is nothing
    Facebook, is NOTHING..

    What WILL HURT, is all the Videos, FB is trying to show you...they will SUCK. and take longer to even COME UP on display..

    How is this we can explain this to a 4th grader in ways they will Understand, PERFECTLY..
    but Corps WONT.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dear Data Users, 13 Jul 2018 @ 6:19am

    Technology Costs Money

    Why do people not understand everything costs money. More bandwidth consumption requires more in equipment, data circuits etc. And tomorrow companies will have to spend millions to upgrade to handle more and more data consumption plus to support new technology that changes every month. There will not be innovation unless it can be profitable. The government can’t force companies to provide you a service at a loss. No profit means no money for R & D! Besides the current administration will only address issues that line the pockets of his family and friends. The tax break everyone was all excited about will be eaten up for all but the ultra rich after we all start paying more for everything we use due to tariffs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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