T-Mobile may throttle speeds of LTE subs who use unlimited data for P2P file sharing, constant video streaming

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) said it may throttle the data speeds of its subscribers with unlimited data plans who engage in peer-to-peer file sharing or use their phones as modems to download continuous and automatic data feeds.

"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," T-Mobile said in a statement to FierceWireless.

"This type of usage can negatively impact our ability to offer affordable unlimited data," the company said. "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."

According to an internal memo posted by the blog TMoNews, the policy will go into effect Aug. 17 and applies only to customers with T-Mobile's $80 unlimited Simple Choice plan. The plan offers unlimited data use and a phone and up to 5 GB of mobile hotspot service.

Under T-Mobile's terms and conditions, "misuse" of the carrier's service includes using the service "in connection with server devices or host computer applications, including continuous Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing applications that are broadcast to multiple servers or recipients, 'bots' or similar routines that could disrupt net user groups or email use by others or other applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality."

The publication said that, according to the memo, T-Mobile will give users who are engaged in the prohibited activities warnings before throttling them. First, the carrier will contact the subscribers and let them know their speeds could be reduced until their next billing cycle if they continue to engage in the prohibited behavior, and will apply a note to their account that they have been warned. If the behavior continues, T-Mobile will throttle their speeds.

It should be noted that almost all wireless carriers have similar language in their contract terms and conditions. For example, AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) prohibits using its service "as a substitute or backup for private lines or full-time or dedicated data connections" and P2P filing sharing, among other actions. Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint (NYSE: S) have similar language in their terms of service.

According to the Washington Post, the FCC declined to comment on T-Mobile's announcement. The agency has asked all four Tier 1 carriers about their throttling policies.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has been particularly aggravated by Verizon's recent announcement that it may start slowing down the speeds of LTE customers who still have legacy unlimited data plans who cross into the top 5 percent of data users and when they are connected to high-traffic cell sites. Verizon said that threshold is about 4.7 GB per month.

For more:
- see this TMoNews article
- see this Washington Post article

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