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T-Mobile strikes $48 million settlement with FCC over unlimited data plan deprioritization


T-Mobile today entered into an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding regarding disclosures about its unlimited data plan and deprioritization.

In March 2015, the FCC began investigating T-Mobile over how it explained its policy of deprioritizing heavy unlimited data users. The FCC says that it received hundreds of complaints from T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers that were unhappy about the deprioritization and felt that T-Mobile wasn’t providing the unlimited data service that was being advertised.

According to the FCC, T-Mobile’s public disclosures about its deprioritization policy before June 2015 were not sufficient in informing customers about what would happen to heavy data users. The FCC says that T-Mobile did not identify the threshold at which customers would begin being deprioritized, didn’t explain how the deprioritization would affect their service, or make clear the slowed data speeds that a deprioritized customer would experience.

As a result of the FCC’s investigation into T-Mobile and today’s agreement, T-Mo has agreed to update its disclosures for its deprioritization and clearly explain restrictions for its unlimited data plans in all advertising or stop using the word “unlimited” to describe plans that are subject to deprioritization. T-Mobile has also agreed to provide direct, individual notifications to customers when they’re nearing the deprioritization threshold.

The agreement will also see T-Mobile spend at least $35.5 million to offer benefits to T-Mobile and MetroPCS unlimited data plan customers. These benefits will include a 20 percent accessory discount (up to $20) and a 4GB of extra data for customers on a mobile internet plan.

T-Mobile has agreed to spend at least $5 million to purchase devices and mobile broadband service for students in low-income school districts. This program will begin in October 2017 and run for four years, providing at least 80,000 students with a device during that time.

Finally, T-Mo will pay a $7.5 million penalty.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded to today’s news by tweeting, “Good settlement with FCC today. @TMobile believes more info is best for customers” and “Glad we could help schools with this solution as well.”

T-Mobile and MetroPCS both have web pages dedicated to the benefits that will be offered as a result of this agreement. T-Mo says that customers will be notified of these offers if they’re eligible. To be eligible, you must be on an unlimited LTE plan 30 days prior to notification of the offers.

In June 2015, T-Mobile began deprioritizing unlimited data plan customers after they used 21GB of data in a single month. Before that threshold was put in place, though, T-Mo’s policy was to deprioritize customers who used more data than 97 percent of customers on the network. That policy is much more vague than the 21GB threshold put in place by T-Mo in June 2015, and that’s what the FCC took issue with, in addition to T-Mo’s lack of clarity about what would happen to customers who had been deprioritized.

T-Mobile’s current deprioritization policy applies to customers who usage exceeds 26GB of data per month, and this number is based on network usage stats from the most recent quarter. Additionally, T-Mo does say that deprioritization “may result in slower data speeds.”

Source: FCC

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