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T-Mobile: Throttling After 21GB Abides Net Neutrality

June 25, 2015 - Written By Cory McNutt

You say po-ta-to and I say po-tato when it comes to data throttling for ‘unlimited data’ customers, or so says T-Mobile in their latest statement regarding the term ‘unlimited.’  T-Mobile said in a statement to FierceWireless, “We love anything that puts consumers first.  Supporting a free and open Internet is no exception.  We adhere to net neutrality rules which ban throttling on the basis of content, applications, services or non-harmful devices while allowing for reasonable network management and customer choice.”  However, there comes a time, at 21GB of data, when certain factors can take over, causing T-Mobile to throttle the speeds on congestive cell sites, citing this is permitted under the FCC net neutrality rules.

In an effort to cover this discovery, or as T-Mobile would put it, clarify the situation, they recently updated their disclosures, and the fine print now reads – “Unlimited 4G LTE customers who use more than 21 GB of data in a bill cycle will have their data usage de-prioritized compared to other customers for that bill cycle at locations and times when competing network demands occur, resulting in relatively slower speeds.”  T-Mobile claims this is not a change in policy, but merely an update to their disclosures so that customers can better understand what would cause their throttling to occur and how to avoid it from happening.

T-Mobile points out that if any wireless tower is congested, any user may notice a slowdown in speed, but if you are one of the top 3-percent users of data, then you could fall back to speeds slower than a lower data user would experience.  T-Mobile claims that Verizon manage network capacity with the top 5-percent of their customers – but only on its 3G CDMA network, but not their LTE network.  While AT&T will start their ‘data prioritization’ after only 5GB of data usage and manage their top 5-percent of users, but only at a congested site.

The FCC declined to comment on T-Mobile’s policy, but their regulations state that if you are “achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service,” then it is okay to throttle.  So in other words, if it is a technical tool necessary for network management it is okay to do, but it cannot be based on what plan a user has subscribed…so in these cases T-Mobile is within their rights and the law.