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Carrier throttles data for users who exceed 5 GB or 10 GB of usage

While AT&T has done away with no-limit data plans in favor of tiered, capped plans (with Verizon expected to follow suit shortly), T-Mobile has continued to offer its customers unlimited* data services on all of its devices, including bandwidth-gulping smartphones.

Except there's a catch. Here it is, buried in fine print in T-Mobile's terms and services:

To provide the best network experience for all of our customers we may temporarily reduce data throughput for a small fraction of customers who use a disproportionate amount of bandwidth. Your data session, plan, or service may be suspended, terminated, or restricted for significant roaming or if you use your service in a way that interferes with our network or ability to provide quality service to other users.

And there is no asterisk next to "unlimited" on any of T-Mobile's merchandising. If you don't read all of the fine print, or a forthcoming sales rep doesn't warn you of the carrier's ability to throttle your data speeds as it sees fit, then you're stuck finding out the hard way, like one Trent Alvarez.

Alvarez has filed a class-action lawsuit in California against the nation's fourth-largest carrier, alleging he was misled by a T-Mobile sales representative to believe that the service plan he was signing up for truly was unlimited, ConsumerAffairs reports. Alvarez purchased two smartphones last year under two-year contract agreements. In May, he received this text message from T-Mobile:

Your data usage in this billing cycle has exceeded 10GB; Data throughput [speed] for the remainder of the cycle may be reduced to 50kbps or less.

Alvarez is alleging that the throttling renders the phones "essentially useless for anything other than making or receiving phone calls and text messages.”

The lawsuit demands an injunction that would prevent T-Mobile from advertising its plans as "unlimited," as well as restitution for the cost the class spent on smartphones.

The suit is similar to one brought against Verizon in 2007 by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who alleged invisible limits on what was marketed as "unlimited data." Verizon settled that lawsuit for $1 million.

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Limits of Unlimited...
By EricMartello on 8/11/2010 1:57:34 PM , Rating: 3
Not too long ago many Web Hosting companies would offer "unlimited bandwidth" but then either cap the transfer rate or pull the plug whenever you transferred more than their undocumented limit.

UNLIMITED means NO LIMITS, hidden or otherwise. In the case of bandwidth, the total amount you can possibly transfer within a billing period is limited by your average transfer an unlimited plan should be able to provide up to that amount before any kind of "throttling" takes place.


If you advertise 3 Mbps data speeds, that is about 32 gigabytes of data per day and 972 gigabytes per month. If a user is NOT exceeding either of those physical limits on an "unlimited" plan then there should not be any throttling taking place. It would be unlikely that a user would ever meet or exceed those limits and that is exactly the point.

On the other hand, if the want to limit their network then they need to be clear about that on their marketing material. Burying it in fine print does constitute DECEPTIVE advertising and is something that you can take legal action against.

RE: Limits of Unlimited...
By sprockkets on 8/11/2010 11:24:45 PM , Rating: 2
You don't honesty expect all cell phone users to be torrenting on their phone 24/7 do you? That's why for the 99% of people calling it unlimited is just fine. It's called keeping the plan description easy to follow.

Just because you also may have unlimited minutes doesn't mean you are going to run a call center through it either and talk 24/7, because that isn't considered normal usage.

RE: Limits of Unlimited...
By EricMartello on 8/12/2010 4:36:57 PM , Rating: 2
When you start adding those kind of restrictions it is no longer "unlimited". Words have definitions and unlimited means "without limits". The point is that if you choose to advertise a product or service a certain way, but you have no intention of honoring what you advertise, you are effectively using deceptive tactics.

Rather than saying "unlimited" they could have said "abundant" or "generous".

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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