Sprint Resumes Throttling Unlimited Data Users

by Matt Klassen on October 19, 2015

On the cusp of the Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality regulations coming into effect earlier this year, Sprint took a proactive step, one designed to not only curb any regulatory pressure, but to help the company stand out from its competitors: it stopped throttling its unlimited users.

Now at the time Sprint acknowledged that its network management policies would probably have been acceptable under the FCC’s new rules, but nevertheless decided that it would be a good move to change their practices anyways; practices, it should be noted, that still continue to remain an industry standard.

But in a classic flip-flop, it looks like Sprint is now tired of being the only carrier to not throttle its heaviest users, as the company announced that in accordance with current industry practices, it will slow the network speeds of unlimited users when they reach the company’s predetermined data ceiling.

Earlier this week Sprint announced a new Quality of Service initiative; one that will limit the connection speeds of unlimited data users after hitting the ceiling of 23GB in one monthly billing cycle. The change comes just a few months after Sprint voluntarily abolished all such throttling practices in an effort to avoid possibly running afoul of the FCC.

While at the time I considered Sprint’s decision to reverse its throttling policy to be a proactive move—the foresight to avoid possible regulatory penalties coupled with the marketing possibilities of offering the only truly ‘unlimited’ data plan—I will admit that it’s hard to blame Sprint for flip-flopping yet again, as every other one of its competitors has done nothing but increase these sorts of data de-prioritization network management practices, with no regulatory repercussions threatened or forthcoming.

Now granted the throttling of ‘unlimited’ data plans isn’t, by the strictest definition, defying the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations to begin with, for as with T-Mobile and AT&T, Sprint continues to offer customers unlimited data, just not all at the same speed. But of course it’s hard to advertise the tagline, “Unlimited Data, Limited Speed,” but I digress.

“This practice is intended to protect against a small minority of unlimited customers who use high volumes of data and unreasonably take up network resources during times when the network is constrained,” said John Saw, Sprint’s chief technology officer.

But even while flip-flopping on its network management practices, Sprint has made it clear that crossing the 23GB per month threshold doesn’t necessarily mean all broadband speeds will be slowed for the remainder of the cycle, it will simply help Sprint classify its heaviest users who will then be throttled “only in times and locations where the network is constrained.” I would say in a wireless market where unlimited data simply isn’t what it used to be, Sprint’s commitment to a soft-handed approach to throttling is likely the best you’ll find, and I suppose that’s better than nothing.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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