updated 08:55 pm EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
P2P file-sharing, unofficial tethering both violations of the terms of plans
On the heels of Verizon's announcement that it will periodically throttle the LTE speeds of its most prodigious users during times of network congestion, a leak from T-Mobile has revealed a similar program -- but with a different approach. Rather than targeting a certain percentage of the heaviest users without discrimination, the carrier plans to first educate and then restrict the speeds of only those users who are in violation of the terms and conditions of the "unlimited' data plans through torrenting or tethering abuse.
A memo, first uncovered by TMONews, reveals that the company "has identified customers who are heavy data users and are engaged in peer-to-peer file sharing, and tethering outside of T-Mobile's Terms and Conditions (T&C). This results in a negative data network experience for T-Mobile customers. Beginning August 17, T-Mobile will begin to address customers who are conducting activities outside of T-Mobile's T&Cs."
The main customers affected by the new policy will be those who are on any "Unlimited High-Speed Data" plans such as the $80-per-month "Simple Choice" unlimited option. Even then, simply using a lot of data will not be grounds for the throttling; users must be "misusing" their plan's conditions by (among other examples) engaging in peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing , bypassing approved tethering conditions, continuous web-cam broadcasts or "bot" network abuse.
Customers will receive a warning well in advance of any actual throttling, explaining what actions they are taking that are in violation of the T&C of their plan. Only in the billing cycle after the warning, and only if the abuse continues, will customers see a throttling effect that will last through the remainder of that billing cycle. Those affected will have their customer records updated so that service reps can quickly inform the customer of why their speeds have been reduced.
In a confirmation, the network said that the number of customers causing issues was "very small," but that "this type of usage can negatively impact our ability to offer affordable unlimited data." T-Mobile says it will take these steps only to "protect all T-Mobile customers."
Verizon's handling of the same problem sparked an FCC investigation into its, and later all carriers', throttling and data-management policies. Verizon, however, had previously agreed to avoid such moves under an agreement with the FCC over other abuses, and may not apply to T-Mobile depending on how the commission views the implementation of the policy. Verizon plans to choke off speeds of the top five percent of data-gulpers whenever it threatens network congestion.