Although the Federal Trade Commission declared earlier this year that unlimited data with throttling cannot be marketed as unlimited data, which resulted in TracFone paying a $40 million fine for throttling unlimited data consumers, and even occasionally cutting off their service, many broadband providers are still finding creative ways to market increased broadband speed.
According to Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “The issue here is simple: When you promise consumers ‘unlimited,’ that means unlimited.” The FCC decision has resulted in some carriers discontinuing unlimited data plans, however, others are testing add-on options.
The reality is that as Internet applications and online usage increases, the demand for more data will grow. Yet, the need for speed must be tempered with the reality of how much data consumers actually require. Most users can reasonably expect to get what carriers are advertising and be well provisioned by that service.
Comcast, for example, is offering an Unlimited Data Option in Fort Lauderdale, the Keys and Miami, Florida, which supplies 530 GB a month for an additional $30 charge, whereas customers on the 300 GB plan who use 530 GB can expect to pay an additional $50. This campaign, if successful, will undoubtedly spark competition among other national carriers.
On the whole, for carriers trying to maximize revenues and stay competitive around broadband Internet, they will have to follow market trends. T-Mobile USA, which still offers an unlimited data plan, says it will restrict those who abuse data privileges, specifically customers that use their cellphones for tethering to other device like laptops or tables, which consumes up large amounts of data and makes it difficult to supply sufficient GBs to those who simply connect via smartphone.
This issue, however, raises another question: how much data is too much data? Broadband providers will inevitably have to address this issue to compete in an increasingly-connected marketplace where data usage shows no signs of slowing down.