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T-Mobile agrees to reveal customers' throttled speeds

Under agreement with FCC, the carrier will provide customers with tools that accurately gauge the connection speeds they are experiencing after reaching their monthly data caps.

T-Mobile must provide customers information about the actual speeds they are receiving. Josh Miller/CNET

T-Mobile has agreed to give its customers more accurate information about the speed of their mobile broadband connection, even when their speeds are being throttled.

The FCC announced Monday that T-Mobile will provide its customers with tools to allow them to accurately gauge the connection speeds they are experiencing after reaching their monthly data caps. The agreement comes in response to an FCC probe launched this summer into wireless carriers' speed reduction practices and concern that customers were not receiving accurate information about their service.

Once T-Mobile customers exhaust their allotment of data, instead of being billed overage charges, their speeds are reduced for the remainder of their billing cycle. As spelled out in T-Mobile's service agreement, customers' speeds are reduced to either 128kbs or 64kbs, depending on their data plan.

Use of certain speed test applications were exempted from T-Mobile's monthly data allotments in June, but the results were not always clearly presented, the FCC said. Rather than report the actual reduced speed being provided to customers, the exempted speed tests would return information about T-Mobile's full network speed, preventing customers from receiving accurate information about their speeds.

"The FCC is committed to ensuring that broadband providers are transparent to consumers. I'm grateful T-Mobile has worked with the FCC to ensure that its customers are better informed about the speeds they are experiencing," FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. "Consumers need this information to fully understand what they are getting with their broadband service."

The FCC said T-Mobile will send text messages to customers that will help them get more accurate speed information and place links to accurate speed tests directly on their handsets. The No. 4 US wireless carrier has also agreed to rewrite the disclosures appearing on its website to provide clearer information about the speeds customers actually experience.

"Chairman Wheeler recognizes that speed test apps help consumers make choices among competing mobile broadband services, and we agree," T-Mobile said in a statement. "That's why we make sure crowd-sourced speed tests accurately reflect the true lightning-fast capability of T-Mobile's Data Strong network. The additional disclosures we're providing to consumers on this issue will be sure to prevent any confusion and are another solid Un-carrier move."

The FCC's industry-wide probe was sparked by Verizon's decision in late July to extend its policy of slowing down the top 5 percent of unlimited 3G data customers to 4G customers -- a practice some refer to as throttling. After Wheeler sent a letter to Verizon saying he was "disturbed" by the policy change, the carrier announced in October that it would no longer go through with its .