Clark Howard blog post that claims that Straight Talk will soon impose 2.5 GB monthly data cap. After using 2.5 GB in a month data will be throttled to what Howard calls dial-up speeds. At the 4 GB mark data will be shut off for the remainder of the month.
Interesting news but it raises lots of questions. For one, who is Clark Howard? I'd never heard of him but it turns out that he's a consumer advocate who is best known for a daily syndicated radio talk that's heard on over 200 stations. Clark is also the co-anchor of the "Evening Express" news program on the HLN (Headline News) TV network and has a weekly newspaper column. Howard's shows and columns offer money saving tips and ways to save money and avoid rip-offs and scams.
Assuming Clark is right about the caps, major questions remain. When will the changes will occur? Will they effect Straight Talk users on all four networks that the MVNO uses? Will customers have a way to track their usage as recorded by Straight Talk and will Straight Talk modify its terms of service to allow streaming and tethering?
I don't know the answer to any of these questions. If I had to guess, I suspect that the change will occur soon, possibly early in July.
Even though Straight Talk operates totally independent services on each of the four national networks I think the caps will apply, at least on paper, to Straight Talk users regardless of whether they are using a Straight Talk's AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Sprint based variants. Straight Talk likes to hide the differences between the operators it uses as much as possible to present the image of a single unified Straight Talk network. Actual enforcement of the caps may vary. Currently Straight Talk's hidden caps seem to be enforced mostly against AT&T and, to a lesser extent, Verizon users. There are very few reports of T-Mobile or Sprint Straight talk users getting throttled or having their data cut off. So even though Straight Talk will say the caps apply to all networks, enforcement may be less strict against Straight Talk Sprint and T-Mobile users.
I doubt that users will be able to track how much data Straight Talk thinks they have used. Currently, no one at Straight Talk, even at the highest customer service and technical support levels, seems to be able to tell a customer how much data they have used. I don't see that changing quickly, especially given the complexity of tracking usage on four different networks in a way that would be consistent and meaningful to users.
It would make sense to remove the streaming prohibition from the TOS. Not allowing streaming is a way to limit data usage without having a stated cap. Streaming has become a mainstream activity among modern smartphone users and prohibiting it makes the service much less attractive to potential customers. Having a cap means there's less need to block streaming so hopefully Straight Talk will legitimize it.
I don't see the tethering prohibition going away. The US operators like to charge customers extra to share the data they are already paying for with another device. I can't see them all allowing Straight Talk to give away something that's such a lucrative source of revenue to the operators.