T-Mobile agrees to disclose more info about actual speeds when customers are throttled

As part of an agreement with the FCC, T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) said it will take steps to ensure that subscribers who run mobile broadband speed tests on its network get accurate speed information even when they are subject to data throttling.

"The FCC is committed to ensuring that broadband providers are transparent to consumers.  I'm grateful T-Mobile has worked with the FCC to ensure that its customers are better informed about the speeds they are experiencing," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "Consumers need this information to fully understand what they are getting with their broadband service."

T-Mobile will start putting in place the agreement immediately and will fully adopt it within 60 days. Specifically, T-Mobile will send subscribers a text message once they hit their monthly high-speed data allotment linking to a speed test that customers can use to determine their actual throttled speed. The carrier will also provide a button on customer smartphones linking to a speed test that will show actual reduced speeds.

Additionally, T-Mobile will change the text messages it currently sends to customers once they hit their monthly high-speed data allotment to make it clear that certain speed test apps may show full network speeds, rather than their reduced speed. The modified texts also will provide more information about the speeds that will be available after customers exceed their data allotment. T-Mobile also agreed to change its website disclosures to better explain its policies regarding speed test applications and where consumers can get accurate speed information.

T-Mobile offers several plans under its Simple Choice brand that have set allotments of high-speed data. After a customer hits their monthly data cap, customers can see their speeds reduced to either 128 kbps or 64 kbps, depending on their data plan, for the remainder of their monthly billing cycle. (T-Mobile's $80 unlimited plan does not have throttling.) T-Mobile does not have overage charges on its plans.

In June, T-Mobile began exempting the use of certain speed test applications, including the Ookla Speedtest.net app, from counting toward customers' monthly data allotments. T-Mobile also said it would not throttle the data generated from network speed-testing apps.

The FCC noted that right now customers who are being throttled might be confused by the results of exempted speed tests. The commission noted that when these customers run speed tests that T-Mobile has exempted from data caps, they receive information about T-Mobile's full network speed, and not the actual throttled speed available to them. The FCC said it was concerned that this "could cause confusion for consumers and prevent them from obtaining information relevant to their use of T-Mobile services."

The deal between the FCC and T-Mobile comes after Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) in October abandoned plans to throttle the data speeds of customers who are on legacy unlimited data plans who crossed into 5 percent of data users on Verizon's LTE network when they are on high-traffic cell sites. Verizon dropped the proposed change after pressure from Wheeler and the FCC, which has been actively investigating wireless carriers' throttling practices since this summer.

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission last month filed a lawsuit against AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), alleging that the carrier misled as many as 3.5 million customers with legacy unlimited data plans by throttling their data speeds and changing the terms of their plans. AT&T said the lawsuit does not have any merit.

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