Early this morning, Sprint announced a new ‘All-In’ wireless plan with unlimited data, throttled to 600kbps for anyone trying to stream videos. The internet’s resounding ‘hell no’ showed Sprint the error of its ways, and it has now changed that explicit throttling policy to a more vaguely-worded (but no less shady) one.
Sprint’s All-In plan sounds pretty good on paper: $80 for a leased phone (which you have to give back after two years), unlimited data, calls and texts. The company even went to pains to point out how transparent and open the new pricing system is, as per these pandering quotes from Sprint’s CEO:
When [customers] walk into our store or visit our website, they will see that $80 includes a smart phone and an unlimited plan to do the most important things they are going to do with the phone for an entire month: make calls, watch videos, listen to music, text a friend – you name it. If you went to a restaurant that advertised a cheeseburger for 99-cents, but when you show up, they said it’s an extra $2 for the bun or $1 for lettuce, you would feel misled.
Damn right! Plans that advertise unlimited data, but then cap and throttle usage are horribly misleading. That makes it doubly bad that the following footnote was tacked onto the press release:
To improve data experience for the majority of users, throughput may be limited, varied or reduced on the network. Streaming video speeds will be limited to 600Kbps at all times, which may impact quality.
No shit that may ‘impact quality’, in the same way that taking a piss in the morning coffee of Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO (an action in no way endorsed by Gizmodo) may impact quality. 600Kbps makes video streaming intolerably slow; you can forget trying to watch episodes of TV shows — just getting a 10-second Snapchat video to load will take most of your morning commute.
That’s not the end of the story, though: Sprint put a press release out later on today, saying that it had listened, and was removing the limit to streaming video “in response to customer feedback”. Unfortunately, the statement didn’t stop there:
“During certain times, like other wireless carriers, we might have to manage the network in order to reduce congestion and provide a better customer experience for the majority of our customers.”
In other words: we’re still probably going to throttle the shit out of your unlimited data plan, but we’re not actually going to tell you about it quite so explicitly.
If you’re thinking to yourself: “hey, isn’t this exactly the kind of janky-ass marketing tactic the FCC and net neutrality was meant to stop”, you’d be totally right. In fact, Sprint publicly announced it was ending its years-long practice of throttling speeds on June 18th, when the new net neutrality rules went into place. It did so voluntarily, claiming that throttling would still be legit under the FCC’s new rules. I guess we’ll have a chance now to see if that’s the case. I know which side I’m rooting for.
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