The big telecoms finally have unlimited plans, a welcome relief from typically punitive overages. Despite what they want you to believe, however, there is nothing innovative about their approach. Freedom Mobile has been doing unlimited data for years, starting all the way back to when they were still called WIND; so for the better part of a decade, many Canadians have had their data throttled.
What is throttling?
It may sound counterintuitive, but unlimited data plans still have a data limit. The difference with unlimited is that you aren’t charged when you go over the limit. Instead, the data speeds are reduced so that you can’t use the service at full speed anymore. This is called throttling.
Here's what happens when you're throttled.
After reaching your data limit, the wireless provider will apply an artificial limit to your data speed. Most of the carriers offering this type of service will tell you that everything works when you're throttled, but some services like streaming video will be affected. The truth is that artificially slower speeds affect everything, from loading web pages to posting on Instagram. Sometimes it works, sometimes it works but slowly, and sometimes it doesn't work at all. Plus, if you keep using data after you’ve been throttled some companies throttle you even slower...and slower... and slower.
How do you know if you’ve been throttled?
Normally your carrier sends a text message, email, or app notification, but sometimes your internet speeds just get slowed down and you don't know why. If you're in an area with poor signal strength it can be confusing - is it my plan, or the network?
Taking it a step further with Connectivity Monitoring
As part of the Connectivity Monitoring feature, we want to help everyone understand what’s happening with their wireless service. You won’t have to be one of our subscribers to use this feature.
We are building technology to help identify if you’ve been throttled, and what level of throttling you’re at.
To make this happen, we’re building three levels of Passive Scans;
- Off: the app doesn’t measure or collect any connectivity data, so we can’t help you here.
- Anonymous: the connectivity measurements are anonymized and can’t be associated with you or your device, but they contribute to the overall understanding of network performance. To test for throttling you will have to run an Active Scan.
- Intelligent: all scans are attributed securely to your profile, allowing us to build a complete picture of your connectivity. Wherever possible we will proactively notify you about throttling or anything else impacting your experience.
You will also be able to run an Active Scan whenever you want, which is similar to a traditional ‘Speed Test’. If something doesn’t seem quite right you can use this to try and identify the problem.
As our members contribute scans our machine learning tools will work away in the background. Our goal is to be able to tell you when you were first throttled, what speed you were dropped down to, and when speeds returned to normal - and show how your experience compares to other Canadians similar to you.
Help us Build It!
So, what do you think? What other features would you like us to build for Connectivity Intelligence?
Tell us in the comments!