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Public Knowledge Criticizes T-Mobile's Speed Test Cap Exemption
by Karl Bode 12:23PM Wednesday Jul 09 2014
In addition to recently announcing that they'd be exempting popular music services from their usage caps, T-Mobile also announced that they'd be exempting speed tests apps from caps as well. Most people focused on how the former was controversial for giving larger music companies a leg up, even though T-Mobile stated they'd be adding more services to the whitelist as consumers requested them.

Now consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge is complaining that exempting speed tests from the caps also poses a problem by prohibiting users from seeing how heavily they've been throttled (usually around 256 kbps):
quote:
By exempting speed tests from the throttling, T-Mobile is effectively preventing consumers from learning exactly how slow their throttled connections are. Under the new policy, T-Mobile customers who exceed their data caps will not be able to gauge the actual speeds available to them for the vast majority of their daily usage.

T-Mobile has justified the move on the basis that it more closely adheres to the true intent of online speed tests. In a statement, the wireless carrier said that “[t]he Ookla Speedtest.net application is designed to measure true network speed—not show that a customer has exceeded their high-speed data bucket. Other speed test providers are also whitelisted.”

But this explanation makes little sense. When customers who have hit their caps use the Ookla application, they are trying to measure their true network speed—not the speed no longer available to them. The inability for customers to estimate the actual speeds they are receiving serves mostly to disguise the carrier’s throttling policies. The decision also harms customers, who will lose the ability to plan their mobile broadband activities around the actual speeds that they are receiving.
T-Mobile so far has brushed aside concerns that their latest "uncarrier" moves set a bad precedent for a company pushing to be a strong consumer advocate. The company may mean well, but groups like Public Knowledge argue that a carrier meddling with which traffic is cap-exempt sets a very dangerous precedent. While it may change, the FCC's current network neutrality protections won't cover wireless networks.

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gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA

Petty nitpicking

Like T-Mobile customers can't use some other tests to find out they are throttled after exceeding cap, right?
It seems to be FUD to confuse and delay network neutrality.
--
Let them eat FIBER!
Mr Guy

join:2014-05-06
USA

Re: Petty nitpicking

said by gaforces:

Like T-Mobile customers can't use some other tests to find out they are throttled after exceeding cap, right?
It seems to be FUD to confuse and delay network neutrality.

You do realize with network neutrality what T-Mobile is doing will not be allowed.

gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA

Re: Petty nitpicking

I think T-Mobile is going to push the issue any chance it gets, poking the beast that is network neutrality.
said by Mr Guy:

You do realize with network neutrality what T-Mobile is doing will not be allowed.

--
Let them eat FIBER!
wispalord

join:2007-09-20
Farmington, MO
right ... I thought they was unlimited like sprint anyhow when did that change again I wont use any carrier with caps id rather be slower than monitor it
Mr Guy

join:2014-05-06
USA

Re: Petty nitpicking

said by wispalord:

right ... I thought they was unlimited like sprint anyhow when did that change again I wont use any carrier with caps id rather be slower than monitor it

They do have an unlimited data plan, it's $80 plus the cost of the device. Some people rather have a cap to pay less.

delusion ftl

@172.56.40.x
They are unlimited, as in data is never turned off, nor is there any way to get overages. They do offer different throttle points, 1GB, 3GB and no throttle.

When these articles use the word "cap" it tends to imply overages or data stoppage. This is not the correct interpretation.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
But can they find one?

"Other speed test providers are also whitelisted."

JackKane

@98.226.242.x

Other speed test providers are also whitelisted.

Which other tests would you recommend? The statement above from T-Mo is pretty clear, I thought.

Not sure where you're going with the 'neutrality' comment (trollbait?), but the point being made is just that - the purpose of a speed test is to test the speed currently available to the user. It's not FUD to suggest that not showing that information to the user is hiding the reality of the user's experience. Speed tests are about reality, not the carrier's desire to show off their capabilities.

Goliath2k
Premium
join:2013-12-28
united state

Re: Petty nitpicking

said by JackKane :

Which other tests would you recommend?

I prefer testmy.net to Ookla anyway. testmy.net seems more accurate to what my real life download speeds are anyway, and it's not flash/app based so it works great on older computers/smartphones.

gaforces
United We Stand, Divided We Fall

join:2002-04-07
Santa Cruz, CA
I'd probably look for test's at a university's it department. Failing that I'd try a competing services speed test.
--
Let them eat FIBER!
Mr Guy

join:2014-05-06
USA

whitelist

" T-Mobile stated they'd be adding more services to the whitelist as consumers requested them"

does T-Mobile even state what the threshold is for requests. I'm sure they are not going to add a company just because 1 person requests it. Which of course makes T-Mobile's statement BS. Since small new companies by their nature won't have enough requests to get whitelisted.

delusion ftl

@172.56.40.x

Re: whitelist

T-mobile said that their goal was to get to the point where all music streaming services are whitelisted. They even showed interest in the idea that individual users could be able to whitelist their own favorite service. Really not much different than the "friends and family" or "in-network" calling/texting that carriers already use.
Mr Guy

join:2014-05-06
USA

Re: whitelist

said by delusion ftl :

T-mobile said that their goal was to get to the point where all music streaming services are whitelisted.

So why not do that from the start?

MovieLover76

join:2009-09-11
kudos:1

Re: whitelist

It takes time to figure out the ip addresses etc to whitelist, it's not a simple matter I suspect.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: whitelist

Then why bother throttling services at all? Would it not be technologically easier to pull the caps/throttles off of the service and charge a single, flat fee instead of dealing with various tiers?
Oedipus

join:2005-05-09
kudos:1

1 recommendation

Overage Speed

So if you've already gone over your cap from streaming netflix (or whatever), why would future speedtests not be throttled? It's one thing to exempt an app from counting against your cap, it's another to exempt it from throttling imposed by going over that cap.

davidc502

join:2002-03-06
Mount Juliet, TN
kudos:1

This has to be about money

There must be a underlying reason dealing with money. They must be getting kickbacks from the speedtests or something.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

1 recommendation

Re: This has to be about money

If Ookla cannot differentiate slow performance due to throttling vs. congested network/poor network coverage, it's in TMO's best interest to not throttle speed tests. If they throttle speed tests, it will lower their average vs. competitors. TMO's propaganda has been fastest LTE network + better prices. If they truly are faster, they don't want heavy users dragging down those averages due to throttling.

MovieLover76

join:2009-09-11
kudos:1

Re: This has to be about money

agreed, this reason is completely understandable.
verta

join:2007-05-29
Tallahassee, FL
They are being quirky and random about breaking net neutrality to get attention (and also pick up some customers who like music) and to bring needed attention to the overall issue. It's crazy like a fox and win win.
rradina

join:2000-08-08
Chesterfield, MO

Ookla's Data

I agree that this is a network neutrality issue but it also depends on what folks do with Ookla's data. Ookla's data isn't just used by the consumers testing their connection speed. If Ookla cannot differentiate between throttled speeds and network congestion/poor coverage and TMO propaganda relies on Ookla data to support claims regarding "fastest LTE network", it's in their best interest to exclude speed tests from throttling.

Perhaps TMO needs to work with Ookla and adapt its proxy infrastructure to add a header when the customer is throttled. Then Ookla can differentiate the tests. The consumer is better informed about their throttled speeds and the data doesn't necessarily have to impact TMO performance claims (it just qualifies them).

Either something like this or they have to charge overages like their competitors. Personally I'd prefer throttling to incurring extra charges. What would be really great is if they offered a choice plan. Throttling with an app that lets you buy more fast data if you want.

ev

@74.140.91.x

The Throttle

A 128k throttle is not fun but much better than the hell GPRS-level data. 256k is much better. What if the throttle were bumped to say 512 or 1mbps? Would people on the sidelines complain as loudly?
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO

Re: The Throttle

I've been throttled to 128k on Sprint for the last 3 years.
ocjosh

join:2013-03-19
united state
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
·Clear Wireless

Re: The Throttle

First thing first.
That doesn't answer what T-Mobile's doing is good way to go.
What I have been told in T-mobile Los Angeles corp stores in Cerritos and Santa Fe Springs. I've been told if it's capped, I can't open webpage well, no streaming will function well, just stops all the time.
I also confirm even a small aac format @64kbps streaming, not with waived music source, the capped speed in LA market just won't work. It will become pieces.

I tested on my cousins' smartphones with T-Mobile and it's true here in LA. You won't know what speed are you getting if they play that directions.

As far as Sprint 128K issue, this is not responding to new T-mobile's tricky movements at all. Cancel Sprint and go somewhere else will help.

ev

@74.140.91.x

Re: The Throttle

I imagine LA and NYC are much different beasts than here in Central Ohio. Under a throttle here, ping times go sour but streaming at 64k is solid. Even 128k streams fly in the city.

And as much as people complain about not having enough bars out yonder -- which is totally understandable -- even 24/32kbps streaming seems to work well enough in the lowly EDGE/GPRS areas.
Skippy25

join:2000-09-13
Hazelwood, MO
I must of forgot to put the indicating humor and sarcasm. Oh wait, no I didn't forget it is right up there after the .

ev

@74.140.91.x

Re: The Throttle

Yeah but something something SPARK!! Coming SOON* to an outhouse near YOU!!

*Q4 2019

thxultra

@38.103.109.x
LOL you get 128k on sprint you must be on there fastest tower. I swear my tower is using a 56k modem for the uplink. That is when you get a data connection with sprint. I can't wait to ditch sprint there service is awful.

fiosultimate

join:2014-06-09
San Antonio, TX

just one more year

Sprint will upgrade their speeds in 2015(sarcasm)
ocjosh

join:2013-03-19
united state

Re: just one more year

Hey guys, T-mobile only. Please.

Whoever has Sprint issues, it's off the topic as of today. They are 2 cases.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2
I'd suggest that the same people complaining of throttling and T-mobile's violation of longstanding net neutrality principles should still be complaining regardless of the threshold.

trux830

@171.159.194.x

Is this really a problem though?

If you are capped you can use another speed test...problem solved!

robbyglack

@63.224.64.x

two different things

t-mobile is doing 2 different things here. they are exempting speedtesting from counting against the data cap, not too much to complain about here. but the other thing they are doing is not throttling the speedtest, this part is pretty terrible i am pretty sure anyone ruining a speedtest while throttled wants to known their throttled speed.

also if speedtest apps are given any special treatment at all how can we know if they even provide accurate results prior to throttling. t-mobile cound be giving speedtesting priority network access at all times ensuring that even in times of congestion they show max. possible results. i think that is pretty bad and deceptive..

SteelerRaw

@8.28.150.x

Re: two different things

said by robbyglack :

but the other thing they are doing is not throttling the speedtest, this part is pretty terrible i am pretty sure anyone ruining a speedtest while throttled wants to known their throttled speed.

also if speedtest apps are given any special treatment at all how can we know if they even provide accurate results prior to throttling. t-mobile cound be giving speedtesting priority network access at all times ensuring that even in times of congestion they show max. possible results. i think that is pretty bad and deceptive..

You're quite right. It goes back to this though: »venturebeat.com/2014/01/08/t-mob···s-in-q4/

quote:
T-Mobile just announced that it now has the fastest LTE network in the United States based on user-generated data from Ookla’s Speedtest.net.
Throttled speed tests, while accurately reflecting real world speeds for a subscriber at that point in time, could conceivably bring their average down and then there goes that marketing talking point. Can't have that.
verta

join:2007-05-29
Tallahassee, FL

cap and throttle - different things!

Exempting speed tests from caps is good. You should be able to run tests without burning all your allotment.

But excerpting from throttling is bad, you deserve to know your real speed.

Edit
My point is that the title and the article miss this and it is not a fine point.

IPPlanMan
Holy Cable Modem Batman

join:2000-09-20
Washington, DC
kudos:1

I support T-Mobile

T-Mobile's in the right here...
BlueC

join:2009-11-26
Minneapolis, MN
kudos:1

Re: I support T-Mobile

I agree. While it might be viewed negatively that they're treating traffic differently, the fact is that speed tests will consume a lot of data when you have data speeds >30mbps. Running one speed test could easily consume 100MB (as you need greater data amounts to accurately test higher speeds). Allowing speed tests to not penalize a data cap is probably the right thing to do.

This is a good thing, even if it's not viewed "neutral", the fundamental approach is good for consumers.

Keep in mind that speed tests are not charging end users any fees, it's completely different from an ISP protecting a revenue-generating asset (e.g. Verizon treating Redbox traffic differently than Netflix).
RustyDonut

join:2013-05-28
Boston, MA

Why do we even have caps to begin with?

Why are there caps to begin with? They don't lose money offering you more data. Caps are just a way to provide a premium on their service. an artificial sense of scarcity or preciousness.
Mr Guy

join:2014-05-06
USA

Re: Why do we even have caps to begin with?

providing data take bandwidth which requires spectrum. It's not fucking magic. Most T-Mobile towers can provide maybe 75 Mbps for LTE. That TOTAL combined among all users. Of which a tower can only handle 400 simultaneous. 12 people streaming HD Netflix at 6 Mbps pretty much uses up all the bandwidth. Why people still don't get this is beyond me. Also 400/75 Mbps is 192 kbps. Something like Spotify premium will use 320 Kbps. So yeah stream all the music you want. ok.

Goliath2k
Premium
join:2013-12-28
united state

Re: Why do we even have caps to begin with?

So Netflix at lowest quality is .3 GB/hour, which calculates to roughly .68 Megabits/sec. If a tower has 75 Mbps throughput, then it could sustain about 110 Netflix connections at low quality.

Maybe if T-Mobile offered sort of a "self-throttle" where you could throttle yourself down to a certain speed (say .5 Mbps) in order to get unlimited bandwidth.

For example, at a half megabit/sec, then that tower could support theoretically 150 simultaneous Netflix streams. If I did the math right, then at .5 Mbps you'd spend roughly 10 minutes buffering in an hour long movie. I'm not entirely sure how Netflix's buffering algorithm works, but I think most people could agree that'd be acceptable if Netflix let you buffer the entire 10 minutes up front, as opposed to having to spread the buffering throughout.

MovieLover76

join:2009-09-11
kudos:1

I understand T-mobile's motive for doing this.

AT&T and Verizon don't throttle connections after you reach your bandwidth cap, they charge you overages.

T-mobile in an attempt to avoid overages, instead throttles your data.
If your not happy with throttled data, you can upgrade to a package with more data or go truly unlimited (something the big two don't allow)
These policies are very pro consumer, no surprize bills and you can still grab that email or use gps when you need to even if you go over your bill.

However aggregated data, from speedtest.net specifically is being used as marketing material in the battle over who has a fastest network, why should T-mobile suffer having it's average pulled down by customers over their cap using throttled data.
The throttled speed 128k is well known and published on T-mobile's site. I don't see how they are hiding anything and if anything they are allowing the customer to check the true speed of T-mobile's network whenever and wherever they want without it affecting their data cap. While the music streaming is more of a possible net neutrality issue, I think this is just people grasping at straws to find another thing to complain about.

T-mobile has it's faults, I use them and indoors has the occasional coverage problem I don't think their perfect, and the music whitelist has some obvious net neutrality implications as it's favoring some music services over others.
This however is nothing to raise a fuss about.