A couple of Straight Talk $ 55 Ultimate Unlimited plan customers posted on Reddit this week that Straight Talk had cut off their “unlimited” data for violating Straight talk’s Terms and Conditions. Their data use wasn’t just throttled, it was totally blocked. A Straight Talk representative pointed one of the Redditors to this line in the terms; “We will presume you are engaging in an unauthorized use in violation of these Terms and Conditions, if in our sole discretion, you are using more than 60 GB of data in a 30-day period…“. That sentence was added to the ToS fairly recently, it’s not in the Internet Archive’s copy from October 4, 2017 which is the latest version available on the archive.
I can’t say that I’m surprised that Straight Talk is capping unlimited data at 60 GB. MVNOs like Straight Talk don’t have their own networks, they resell data service from a mobile operator, in Straight Talks case, either AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. Traditionally mobile operators have charged MVNOs for data by the MB or GB. As far as I know, no operator offers MVNOs unlimited data at a fixed price per customer. On an unlimited data plan, the more data the customer uses the less money the MVNO makes. Customers who use more than a certain amount of data end up costing the MVNO money. MVNOs selling unlimited plans are counting on the average user not using too much data. They discourage high data usage by blocking hotspot and throttling video, but ultimately they must have a way to kick off unprofitable customers or block their data use.
I think the real question here is an ethical one. Is it right for Straight talk to advertise Unlimited Data in a large font on their home page and point of sale signage and then hide a 60 GB cap in the terms and conditions fine print? Shouldn’t Straight Talk and other operators be advertising plans based on the amount of data they will actually allow you to use? Would a $ 55 60 GB Plan sell as well as a $ 55 Unlimited Data plan? Probably not. I doubt that we will ever see real truth in advertising. Unfortunately it’s up to consumers to read provider’s terms and conditions and do their own research to find out the true meaning of “unlimited”.
Straight Talk is a TracFone brand. Two other TracFone brands, Simple Mobile and Page Plus, offer unlimited data plans, but neither mention a 60 GB or other cap on their respective terms and conditions pages. Does that mean their unlimited data is truly unlimited? I don’t think so, both brands T and C’s say that they will cancel or suspend your service if your data use is “abnormally high”.
Sources: Reddit (1), (2), Straight Talk