How many smartphone controversies can we have going at once? Most of our attention may be on the Apple vs. FBI encryption fight these days, but it wasn’t so long ago that the topic du jour was zero-rated data: the practice of some carriers that sends certain mobile data to our phones for free, while continuing to charge us for most data. T-Mobile’s no stranger to that controversy, and its Binge On video offering pushed the limits of what was acceptable for a zero-rating scheme as it proactively downgraded users’ video connections. But today we’re looking at another area where T-Mobile appears to be letting a company access its users for free, as some T-Mobile subscribers get messages about free Facebook data.
The notices users have been seeing are pretty unmistakable: “Facebook with Free Data” they say on app and mobile web alike. And as users attempt to move away from these screens, they’re presented with warning messages that standard data charges are coming back into effect.
It’s not like Facebook hasn’t done this zero-rated scheme before; so what’s so interesting about this? Well, as near as anyone can tell, T-Mobile never announced that it would be bringing its users free access to Facebook.
The answer may have something to do with GoSmart Mobile, a prepaid brand operating under T-Mobile. Unlike T-Mobile proper, GoSmart does indeed advertise free access to Facebook, and it’s possible that some of T-Mobile’s wires are getting crossed, confusing postpaid users with GoSmart prepaid accounts. Or maybe T-Mobile really is about to bring free Facebook to everyone, and some users have been seeing it go live in advance of a formal announcement. Right now, though, we just don’t know.