T-Mobile has slashed its mobile Web browsing fair-use cap to 500MB, bringing it in line with its new bed-fellow, Orange, in a woeful tale of fail.
In a badly written statement on its website today, T-Mobile said "you'll never need to worry about... the 'data/GB's'". But despite those incoherent platitudes, the warning is stern: "If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband."
Previously, T-Mobile's fair-use policy for monthly contracts that included Internet access was 3GB for Android phones and 1GB for the rest. The change will affect new customers and the poor sods who are already shackled to T-Mo.
The network said it won't charge extra if you go over the limit, but it will cut off your video downloading and streaming privileges, although not your email and browsing.
T-Mobile aims to redefine browsing to exclude things like watching YouTube. "Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games," the company wrote in its statement.
Orange, which merged with T-Mobile to form Everything Everywhere last year, has a similar approach. According to the fair-use policy for its contracts, unlimited email is capped at 500MB, while packages sold as having unlimited Internet can be capped at as low as 250MB a month, in the case of its Dolphin 20 deal.
Orange also disparages "non-Orange Internet-based streaming services" and "voice or video over the Internet", but on its own website it plugs YouTube as a favourite website that you can use with your phone's Internet allotment.
We think T-Mobile is making a major mistake by getting dragged down to Orange's lamentable level of Internet rationing. But the two networks are not alone in cutting their caps. Both Vodafone and O2 stopped offering unlimited data, fair-use or not, last year and instituted a charge for going over your limit.
Happily, the dream of unlimited data does live on elsewhere. The 3 network's One Plan offers unlimited data as well as absolute shed-loads of calls and texts. giffgaff also offers unlimited data with no fair-use policy, despite constantly threatening to get rid of it and being on the O2 network.
Of course, if you're on contract with T-Mo, you'll have to get out of it first.
So far, T-Mobile is turning up its nose at people's attempts to cancel contracts after cutting their data to a shadow of its former self. Customer service reps have parried requests with various arguments, from the fact that it's providing reasonable notice of the change, to the claim that the fair-use policy is not part of the contract.
We're combing through the fine print now, but in general, cancelling your contract after a network changes the terms is a battle of wills. Bring snacks and coffee, and perhaps a book, to the phone and prepare to outlast a chain of customer service reps and a psychological onslaught of hold muzak. Only the strong survive.
We're awaiting a comment from T-Mobile, and we'll let you know as soon as we can figure out what they devil it's playing at.