T-Mobile Promises More Accurate Speed Tests

Faced with pressure from the Federal Communications Commission, T-Mobile has agreed to change the information it gives to pay-per-byte consumers who are throttled for exceeding their data caps.

The company will now send a text message to consumers who reach their maximum allotment, and a link to a speed test that will show the actual reduced speeds -- either 128 kbps or 64 kbps, depending on the plan. In the past, T-Mobile offered a “speed test” tool that only revealed the speeds that non-throttled users were receiving -- a number that wasn't particularly meaningful to consumers who had been slowed down.

Advocacy group Public Knowledge took the first step toward filing an FCC complaint in August, by writing to T-Mobile and asking the wireless carrier to change its practices. “While it may be academically interesting for subscribers to learn what their unthrottled connection speed might be, it is practically useful for them to be able to determine their actual, real world, connection speed,” the organization said at the time.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement today that he was “grateful T-Mobile has worked with the FCC to ensure that its customers are better informed about the speeds they are experiencing.”

T-Mobile isn't the only wireless company to face pressure regarding its statements to users. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission sued AT&T for slowing the broadband speeds of mobile users who pay for unlimited data.

The agency said AT&T engaged in an unfair and deceptive practice by promising unlimited data and then slowing down mobile broadband speeds of people who consume more than either 3 GB or 5 GB a month, depending on their plans.

Verizon recently backed away from a plan to throttle some of its longtime subscribers who still pay for unlimited data.

That company's throttling plan, which was slated to begin last month, called for Verizon to slow down some 4G LTE users with unlimited data. The proposed policy involved slowing down the heaviest data users of that group, but only when the network was congested.

News of Verizon's planned slowdowns drew a rebuke this summer from Wheeler. “I know of no past Commission statement that would treat as 'reasonable network management' a decision to slow traffic to a user who has paid, after all, for 'unlimited' service,” he wrote to Verizon in July.

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