Clearing up the confusion: T-Mobile addressing data misuse is NOT widespread throttling


This week, we got hold of an internal memo showing how T-Mobile was going to start addressing customers abusing their unlimited data by downloading tons of content through P2P/torrent sites, and breaking the company’s misuse policy. As we understood it, this was going to be a simple case of singling out those negatively impacting on other customers’ service, making them aware of the policy and slapping their wrist if they carried on.

However, panic has broken out online, resulting in many customers getting confused about what’s going to happen, and worried that they’ll get throttled for watching too many episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix. So, I wanted to break this down as simply as possible to ensure there’s no unnecessary worry going on for T-Mo subscribers out there.

  1. If you’re not on a $70 or $80 unlimited high-speed Simple Choice plan, this doesn’t affect you at all.
  2. If you’re using 1TB of data every month watching Netflix, YouTube, Hulu or any other subscription-based video service on your phone, this doesn’t affect you at all.
  3. T-Mobile unlimited is unlimited. This has nothing to do with the amount of data you’re using.
  4. This only, maybe, perhaps affects you if you’re misusing the network by downloading loads of content through peer-to-peer sharing, or finding ways to tether beyond the limit set out in your agreement.

Now, the terms and conditions themselves are not new. They’ve been around for years. What’s new is that T-Mobile wants to address the very select few individuals who’re making the experience of using T-Mobile LTE bad for other customers. It’s very much a case-by-case basis, and it’s certainly not widespread.

We got in a discussion about this with Mike Sievert on Twitter, who stated the same. Step 1 is reach out to the customer, inform them that they’re misusing data. Step 2 could be throttling, but that’s only based on whether or not they’re affecting other customers negatively.

Sievert confirmed as much to Re/code in an interview. He stated that the company is “planning to reach out them and let them know and help them change.” And also re-stated the fact that data is unlimited on the specific plans in question. “People can use it as much as they want on their smartphone(s).” The hope then is that they don’t have to throttle anyone’s data speeds.

I repeat: The “reach out” only happens if the customer is using peer-to-peer file sharing, or finding ways of getting around the tethering limit in place on the plans. To start with, only 20 customers are being reached out to, and with the exclusive aim of helping them change their behavior. T-Mobile isn’t in the business of throttling its unlimited customers, and it’s not starting now.

Here’s the official spiel, as handed to a customer through one of T-Mobile’s T-Force reps:

A very small number of our customers are misusing their Simple Choice Unlimited data service in violation of their rate plan and terms and conditions by bypassing the default tethering feature or engaging in peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing. This type of usage can negatively impact our ability to offer affordable unlimited data. In order to protect all T-Mobile customers, we will be reaching out to these people to educate them on our terms and conditions of service, but if the misuse continues, they could have their data speeds reduced for the remainder of their billing cycle.

As long as you are using your service in the manner permitted by your plan and terms and conditions, you will not be contacted or affected. Those who use more data than 95% of customers on the same rate plan typically use in a month may, during times and places of congestion, have their data usage prioritized below other customers, but their speeds are not slowed.

So, chances are, it’s not going to affect you at all providing you’re using your data in manner in which you agreed to when you read through all the terms and conditions, and signed your agreement. I hope that’s made things a little clearer, and not curbed your obsession with watching endless TV series’ on Hulu.


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