I have exceeded my 5GB data cap on T-Mobile, my phone is now an expensive paper weight.

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circuitbored
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I have exceeded my 5GB data cap on T-Mobile, my phone is now an expensive paper weight.

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People don't call each other anymore. Well, my parents call their friend circle on cell phones all the time but people in my generation (30 somethings) don't have endless talk sessions on phones like we once used to. What are so called "youngsters" doing?! They're using the Internet. FaceBook, G+, Soundcloud, Spotify, Web Sites, Texting, Twitter, Email, You name it... So why, in this great age of Internet progress and innovation, are we placing limits on bandwidth? Why does your phone mysteriously slow down or why does your bill balloon every month when you're just tyring to use the new features on your iPhone? A shocking expose awaits you below!:

I ventured out into the wild last week, once my BlackBerry suddenly died, and went to pursue a new wireless device. The hunt made me prey, and I came out with scratches of a higher bill, a more expensive phone, and a new thing called a "data cap" on Internet service for my phone.

Now, not many people are aware of data caps, especially because of cell phone plans being sold and advertised as "unlimited". Its a funny thing, but pretty much every new cell phone service contract (Except for those on Sprint Mobile) here in the US includes a ceiling for how much Internet service you can use on you phone. Some service providers even go as far as to sell you a plan, and not let you know that you will hit an ugly patch of inactivity, or a high bill if you pass that Internet data ceiling.

I am all for capitalism, because it drives innovation, and I'm all for newer devices with convenient and great new features like Wi-Fi and app downloads. I like apps, I develop apps, and I love me some good Internet. I firmly believe that the future of Internet Service Providers will be cell phone service providers, but we've really started out on a bad foot here with this type of data cap rate limiting. Let me first give you a bit of the back story:

I originally had a BlackBerry Bold. Due to hearing about the slump that company is currently in, some terrible people had convinced me to get an Android phone. I held out for over 6 months, until my BlackBerry started exhibiting signs of cardiac arrest during tethering and a tiny screen that made it quite hard to read most content of relevance to me online. I naturally started browsing new phones, and began to like one of the new devices out, The Sensation from HTC, its design was simple, and the screen much bigger than an iPhone 4's, I have no complaints about the device other than its outrageously poor battery life.

OK, so while shopping many different claims and representations were made to me in T-Mobile stores, often conflicting, I was quite surprised to see that there was a huge difference in price quotes between each store I went to. Ultimately, I saved 150$ off of the price I was originally quoted for the phone. The phone price is only 50% of the bargain though, just as, if not more important is the plan that I get for the phone. At the time, I had T-Mobile's "unlimited" plan for BlackBerry Data, my total monthly bill was around 84$ (don't ask me how the taxes and fees got the price up to there, even they can't explain that to me).

I of course had to start a new 2 year commitment for this phone (HTC sensation), along with 10 dollars more for the new "Android data plan" because it uses different Internets than a BlackBerry I guess, and a few extra fees because the unlimited plan had been updated. Reps at T-Mobile were all too eager to tell me my 2 year old BlackBerry unlimited plan was "Grandfathered" making it the youngest grandfather to ever exist I guess.

What I gave up by switching plans, was my ability to have a phone without data caps. That is the essence of having a grandfathered plan, despite years of being a loyal T-Mobile customer, my bill went up by over 30$ and they offered 5$ off, but having a data cap was such a significant sacrifice now because just 1 week after leaving the store with a new phone, my rate limit had been exceeded. Every Internet-Based service on my phone became extremely slow, if not non-functional once my data cap was passed, and the applications I develop on Internet Based services are now inaccessible. I also have to wait until next month before being able to view any post on Reddit past those with plain text because the wait is excruciatingly long and dysfunctional. I cannot also use the brilliant wi-fi hotspot feature that my all-new phone has because that makes my usage disappear immediately once I watch a few YouTube clips. My phone is now a paperweight unless I plan on calling or texting someone, which we don't really do anymore.

Let me tell you about what happens when you exceed this "rate limit"! You basically drop on your stunning new 4G! phone to 2G! speed on T-Mobile. This makes your phone a paperweight, it seems functionally slower than a 56k modem, it reminds you about the dark ages, and the worst part is you're still paying a premium rate monthly to your wireless provider because T-Mobile charges 30$ for the next-level upgrade to 10GB, and there are no other options currently past that. I am paying about 98$ per month for less than a half a month of Internet Service, and there are no options to have full freedom on T-Mobile or AT&T. Some service providers charge you after the overage, Sprint is currently the only carrier to have an option for truly unlimited data plans at the moment, but they didn't have the phone I wanted.

Comcast has also implemented data caps on their local/home/business service in the North Eastern US, their limits work much in this same way. Your voice over IP calls will suddenly not work so great. You'll have to skip that night when you invite friends over to watch a new NetFlix movie because your data cap is exceeded (because your kids watched a really long Disney movie while you were at work). This has really significant implications that we won't realize until after its commonplace, and when we have no choice of reverting to a time of truly unlimited Internet.

As the Internet grows, so do bandwidth needs. How can we place limits on bandwidth in a society we want to grow? Why has Verizon tore up the street outside of my house to install Fiber Optic Cables if they're only going to allow me to download a few web sites and a short film each month? Where are consumer rights, competition, and fundamental fairness in this discussion? This year the US Supreme Court, in review of a case with Wal-Mart, set a precedent that makes it harder for consumers to file class-action lawsuits, you see the direction in which we're going here? Consumer satisfaction is the first thing to go in bad economies, actually its a leading key performance indicator of how well an economy is doing; based on the wireless industry, this is not a good sign for out economic outlook.

I don't know about you, but this is a pretty frickin' scary trend to me! I see a world in a few months where you pay a premium for Internet service yet you will have a harsh cut-off in service at a certain point each month (during your peak points in productivity) that will cripple you. Data Caps are hardly a desirable feature for customers of mobile service providers, but they continue to be enforced by service providers as proof that the benefit of competition in the industry is failing due to posturing and positioning of companies. This will only get worse as AT&T and Verizon buy out most of the smaller providers. There will suddenly only be 2 competitors that dictate the price and limits on service we (as consumers) will have to deal with.

The Internet was founded on the principle of being free, this changed in the late 90s with ISPs charging hourly, we caved. The Internet was born around the ideal of being open, but Google and FaceBook kind of killed that, we caved once again. The Internet was built on the principle of being without boundaries, throttling, and limits, lets not cave to mobile and Internet Service Providers putting data caps on our Internet usage. If we do, the only points of view you get will be provided by large corporations, encouraging you to pay a premium for limited access.

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