Gary Marshall: T-Mobile tries to redefine the definition of browsing
Mobile phone companies tend to give their products memorable names. Orange has Dolphin, Canary and Racoon. Vodafone has its Connect Webpacks. And T-Mobile, of course, has its new Up Yours, Screw You and Na Na Na We're Not Listening plans.
There are three really galling things about T-Mobile's dramatic cuts to its fair use policy. The first is that it's such a big cut, with 3GB of monthly data (the allowance for some Android customers) dropping to just 500MB.
The second is that this cut is being applied retrospectively to people who've taken out long contracts.
And the third thing is the complete and utter balls T-Mobile is trotting out to justify it.
T-Mobile has offered two justifications for the 83% cut in customers' data allowances. The first is that nobody will be affected by it, because most people only use around 200MB a month.
If that's the case, why cut it? If hardly anybody uses more than 200MB, what's the problem? It can't be network congestion, because as T-Mobile points out, everybody's doing the 200-meg-a-month thing.
Which leaves explanation number two, which is that there’s a difference between file downloading and browsing? Checking your email is browsing, even though it's actually downloading. Viewing web pages is browsing, even though many web pages include video, which T-Mobile thinks is downloading, and you're not supposed to do that on your mobile phone.
According to T-Mobile, "If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband. Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games."
I'm trying very hard to imagine how that statement could be any more patronising, any more wrong or any more annoying. As Charles Arthur puts it in The Guardian: "You want to take us back to the text-only web? To Lynx?"
Malevolent or just a mess?
There are two possible explanations for this mess. The first is that someone in everything every where’s marketing department - that's the name for the firm created by T-Mobile's merger with Orange - has dropped an almighty bullock and made it seem as if future changes to the fair use policy will apply to current contracts.
I don't think that's it, though, because we'd have had an official "oops" by now. So it seems that without warning, Everything Everywhere has decided to take away the thing that many people signed up for.
This behavior is contemptible. The monthly allowances were T-Mobile's unique selling point, with people signing up to long-term contracts purely on the basis of those allowances. To turn around a few months later and slash those allowances is appalling. And to then stay quiet while your customers panic beggar’s belief.
The answer is simple: if T-Mobile can't or won't reverse the policy change, it should agree to terminate the agreements of anyone who wants out.
If those users are placing such unreasonable demands on T-Mobile's network by using the services they're actually paying for, presumably T-Mobile will be glad to see them go.