In an emergency petition
filed with the FCC, T-Mobile accuses AT&T and Verizon of hoarding spectrum for anti-competitive benefit, then over-charging consumers via usage caps the company argues aren't technically necessary. To hear T-Mobile tell it, AT&T and Verizon then use their duopoly power to hoard spectrum to limit competitors, then charge those under-positioned competitors an arm and a leg for roaming connectivity -- jacking up prices for everyone in the process.
T-Mobile is urging the FCC to force companies like AT&T and Verizon to offer roaming connectivity to competing companies for significantly lower rates. Consumer costs were recently cut in half after European Regulators capped roaming rates
In a comment filing supporting T-Mobile
, consumer groups like Public Knowledge key in on the fact that not only do usage caps allow AT&T and Verizon to undermine net neutrality while kacking up costs, they deter usage of content and services entirely, which is good for nobody:
T-Mobile’s evidence also shows that these artificially high data roaming rates and resulting bandwidth caps keep people from using broadband to its full potential. In 2011 PK warned in a paper called “4G Magic Beans” that bandwidth caps made it impossible to do all the important stuff 4G LTE supposedly lets you do. T-Mobile provides evidence that users with capped or throttled broadband use 20x-30x less broadband than users with uncapped broadband. T-Mobile has also said that 37% of subscribers don’t use streaming media because they fear going over their bandwidth caps.
T-Mobile isn't exempt from blame, Public Knowledge noting that T-Mobile can't really declare caps to be competitively problematic one day, then in the next breath be oblivious to the potential issues with their recent decision to exempt certain music applications
Last year, T-Mobile CEO John Legere explained that its throttling plan would only come into play if a subscriber was hurting other customers’ experience. Yesterday’s announcement reveals that justification was – to use one of Legere’s catchphrases – bullshit. If there is network congestion, data from a music app blessed by T-Mobile into the unmetered lane is no less responsible than any other type of data. Granting some data but not others special network privileges flies in the face of the reasoning that T-Mobile was using for throttling a year ago.
The fact that new services can be voted into the unmetered lane will provide little comfort to music services that are not already large or those without a business development relationship with T-Mobile. For disruptive startups that aspire to grow, counting against T-Mobile’s cap will act as a drag on their ability to get customers – exactly the customers the startup would rely on to vote them into the unmetered lane. For music services that are proudly niche – community radio stations WFMU and KCRW both have great apps with strong followings here at PK – their fate is to be left out of this agreement entirely.
Of course to hear AT&T and Verizon tell it, this is all total fantasy, and the best course of action is to leave everything precisely as it is.