TAMPA – The apps, the streaming video, the calls, the texts, the music, the emails. They all eat away at your cellular data and depending on how much data you’re eating up, your cell phone provider could also be throttling your service speed.
The Federal Communications Commission fined T-Mobile $48 million this week for not clearly stating that 'unlimited' data plans aren't truly unlimited.
“2.89 gigabytes of total in-network data today,” Camilla Calleja announced as she looked at her daily usage.
Her mom, Natalya, struggled to find the words as she realized her family of five is likely consuming at least 30 GB a month on their T-Mobile Unlimited plan.
“On a daily basis, that’s nothing, I mean that’s a lot, but you don’t think it’s even. That’s just one member of my family,” said Calleja.
T-Mobile says that during high-peak times its large data users will experience slower speeds. That's because they throttle those users.
Calleja says toward the end of their monthly cycle she does notice a change in speed on videos and other apps. She didn’t realize that T-Mobile could be slowing the service speed.
“It’s the word unlimited. You would think you don’t have to worry about your data because it is indeed unlimited. Or so we thought,” she said.
Each of the major cellular carriers throttles users who go over on data plans or beyond a certain threshold.
T-Mobile’s current threshold is 26 GB, posted in small print on the front of its website.
The FCC says in June 2015 the company started to do better with disclosures. Right now, in small print on the front page of its website, T-Mobile warns customers that they may experience slower speeds if they use more than 26 GB.
T-Mobile spokesperson Stacey DiNuzzo told 10Newst hat less than 3 percent of its unlimited customers are heavy data users and would experience the slower speeds.
The Calleja family think they’re definitely part of the 3 percent.
“You feel kind of cheated, basically,” she said.
And T-Mobile isn’t the only cellular carrier to throttle users who go over on data plans or reach certain data usage thresholds.
Read the fine print.
AT&T and Sprint have notices similar to T-Mobile’s posted under their data plans. Verizon customer service representatives tell us they have an informal unlimited policy. They say customers who exceed their plans will experience slower speeds until their next billing cycle.
Ramiro Alvarado is also a T-Mobile user and, like many, he uses his cell phone for everything. He says on average he runs 15 apps at once.
“I’m constantly on the phone using GPS, everything,” he said.
Luckily, there are things you can do to avoid the throttle without going on a data diet.
The easiest is to always connect to WiFi, so you avoid using cellular data. Another way is to turn off app notifications under Settings.
T-Mobile customers will not see a credit to their account resulting from the FCC settlement. Some of the $48 million is being used to offer customers 20 percent off one accessory in its retail stores. About $5 million will be used to expand Internet access for children in low-income areas.