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Here are two lines from T-Mobile’s latest "Uncarrier" missive, in which the company proclaims that it has "listened to customers" and is changing its new T-Mobile One plans less than two weeks after announcing them.
The first line:
Everyone gets unlimited talk, unlimited text and unlimited high-speed 4G LTE smartphone data on the fastest LTE network in America.
The second line:
With T-Mobile ONE, even video is unlimited at standard definition so you can stream all you want.
At this point it appears that T-Mobile is operating with definitions of "unlimited" and "data" that are are only tangentially related to reality. For example. most people understand the word "unlimited" to mean "without any limits or restrictions," but T-Mobile’s definition clearly means "without any limits except for a hard restriction on HD video that can only be lifted for $3 a day or $25 a month."*
And "data" traditionally refers broadly to "information that is stored or produced by a rcomputer," but T-Mobile thinks video is not data, but rather… something else? Trying to decide if an app is "video" or "data" is not a logical exercise — it’s so perplexing that I was forced to make lists:
THINGS T-MOBILE THINKS ARE DATA
Gifs, which are short, silent video clips
Snapchat, which is full of video
Instagram, which is full of video
iMessage, which people use to send video
Whatsapp, which people use to send video
Facebook Messenger, which people use to send video
FaceTime, which makes video calls
Skype, which makes video calls
Hangouts, which makes video calls
THINGS T-MOBILE THINKS ARE VIDEO
I asked T-Mobile for the company’s definition of "data" and a spokesperson said "that’s not something I could give you," but suggested that the company was on "the right side of history," and that the goal was to make "unlimited sustainable for the mass market."
That’s an admirable goal! But let’s not dance around the fundamentals of the situation. Net neutrality is the law of the land, and T-Mobile has aggressively pushed the boundaries of net neutrality by manipulating the traffic on its network.
Up until now, its services like BingeOn and Music Freedom have been somewhat traditional zero-rating schemes — you bought a fixed amount of data, and T-Mobile would excuse specific kinds of data from your cap, thereby delivering extra value for the dollar. It’s why the FCC has been somewhat ambivalent about BingeOn when pressed: ultimately, consumers were getting more for their money, and they could opt-out and get exactly what they paid for if they chose. (Most didn’t: T-Mobile says 98 percent of customers left BingeOn untouched.)
But with T-Mobile One, the basic structure has completely changed — the company told me it doesn’t consider the new plan to be zero-rating at all. Now, T-Mobile sells a degraded "unlimited" data service that aggressively limits whatever services it considers "video," and requires additional fees for data that constitutes HD video. That seems like a pretty cut-and-dried violation of basic net neutrality principles!
It’s also a challenge for T-Mobile’s marketing department, which has been rolling out Uncarrier features as surprise value-adds for customers, but now faces a world in which the basic plan offers degraded internet and the real thing costs extra. That’s why the company responded so swiftly to customer confusion — it’s trying to manage the reaction.
The first step here is for T-Mobile to offer a concise, fixed definition of what it thinks "data" is. Until the company can at least do that, the games T-Mobile’s playing with the internet aren’t any better than the games AT&T and Verizon have been playing for years.
*T-Mobile will also limit your unlimited data by "deprioritizing" you if you use over 26GB of data, which the company insists is not "throttling," because words no longer have any meaning in 2016.
In a world where retail tailspins are becoming rather common, successful turnaround tales are few and far between. But on that increasingly short list lives JCPenney, which has managed to reverse what looked like a full-tilt tailspin a few years ago.
When it announced the 100 closures Aug. 11, Macy’s said it would focus on its e-commerce strategy, as the Gap and JCPenney have done. They, too, are shedding stores as more shoppers migrate online. At Macy’s, online sales saw 15 percent growth last year …
I recently checked my iPhone’s Storage & iCloud Usage settings, and it said that I didn’t have a lot of space left. On this 64GB device—which, according to the iPhone, only really has 55.5GB—there was only 696MB available.
But then I synced the iPhone with iTunes. The latter showed me how much free space it thought I had: 2.68GB. And it also said that the iPhone’s capacity is 55.7GB, or 200MB more than what the phone itself says.
I sync my iPhone often enough that I generally have an idea when I’m about to run out of free space. I try to leave at least 1 or 2GB free so I can add a bunch of new music when I want, or download some new apps or podcasts. So I was surprised when my iPhone showed so little free space available. Presented with two numbers, how do I know which is correct?
I set up a test: I tried to sync the first season of Fawlty Towers to my iPhone. If iTunes was able to sync those six episodes, which take up 2.02GB, then the amount of free space on the iPhone would clearly be wrong.
And indeed it was; I put those videos on my iPhone, and afterwards iTunes told me I had 1.36GB available, whereas the iPhone told me that one or more items was not synced, and that I should check in iTunes to find out what didn’t copy. iTunes displayed no error message at all. I tried one more time, and iTunes synced that final episode, telling me that I now had 965MB free, but the iPhone said ominously, “0 bytes.”
Much has been written about storage on the iPhone. For a while, people with the least capacious models had trouble updating iOS. Apple made a change in the way updates were managed in iOS 9 to allow them to be installed with less free space. And if you have a 16GB iOS device, you will pretty much always be short on space.
Most everyone who syncs an iOS device with iTunes knows about the infamous “Other” storage. At times, iTunes tells you that need many more storage space to sync what you’ve selected. When you look at the capacity bar in iTunes, you see a very long yellow section at the right, which represents “Other.” No one knows exactly what is in that “Other” storage, and it’s possible that the iPhone cleared some of it the second time I synced to allow that final episode to be copied to my device.
But my current problem is more annoying. If I want to download a large app or a new video, my iPhone tells me that I cannot do so. But iTunes tells me that I can add more files. How can I find out who is telling the truth? There is no reason why these two numbers should be any different; surely Apple can figure out a method for both iTunes and an iOS device to calculate this free space the same way.
After doing these tests, I deleted Fawlty Towers and my iPhone then told me that I had 2.3GB free. Of course, iTunes said that the same device had 2.98GB free. Back to square one.
Conservatives have been the loudest critics of campus political correctness, and hailed the Chicago statement as a victory. Mary Katharine Ham, a senior writer for The Federalist, a conservative website, wrote that it was “a sad commentary on higher education that this is considered a brave and bold move, but it is, and the University of Chicago should be applauded mightily for stating what used to be obvious.”
But while conservatives often frame campus free speech as a left-versus-right issue, the dispute is often within the left.
“Historically, the left has been much more protective of academic freedom than the right, particularly in the university context,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who specializes in free speech issues. Conservatives “suddenly became the champions of free speech, which I find is a bit ironic, but the left is divided.”
Mr. Lukianoff said he and his group are often mistakenly called conservative, adding, “I’m a former A.C.L.U. person who worked in refugee camps.”
The dispute over free speech has ricocheted off campuses and around the country. In a commencement speech this year at Howard University, President Obama said: “Don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths.”
The University of Chicago has long been associated with the conservative school of economics that is named for it. It also takes pride in a history of free expression, like allowing the Communist Party candidate for president, William Z. Foster, to speak on the ornate neo-Gothic campus on the city’s South Side in 1932, despite fierce criticism.
Mr. Obama taught constitutional law at the university law school.
The university said Friday that Dean Ellision and the university president, Robert R. Zimmer, were not available to discuss the letter or what prompted it, but Mr. Manier referred queries to Professor Stone, a former university provost.
Last year, a faculty Committee on Freedom of Expression, appointed by Dr. Zimmer and headed by Professor Stone, produced a report stating that “it is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
“We didn’t feel we were doing something, internal to the University of Chicago, that was in any way radical or different,” Professor Stone said Friday. It is clear that some colleges are retreating from the same free speech values, he said, “but my guess, if you asked most of these institutions 10 or 20 years ago, they would have said more or less what we said in our statement.”
Since Professor Stone’s committee produced its report, several other universities, including Princeton, Purdue, Columbia and the University of Wisconsin system, have adopted similar policies or statements, some of them taken almost verbatim from the report. And this week’s letter to University of Chicago freshmen draws from that and specifically cites the report as embodying the university’s point of view.
Many academics say the concerns reflected in the University of Chicago letter, while real, are overblown. “I asked faculty if any had ever been asked to give trigger warnings,” said Dr. Roth, of Wesleyan. “I think one person said they had.”
There often seems to be a generational divide on campus speech — young people demanding greater sensitivity, and their elders telling them to get thicker skins — but a survey by the Knight Foundation and Gallup gives a murkier picture. It found that 78 percent of college students said they preferred a campus “where students are exposed to all types of speech and viewpoints,” including offensive and biased speech, over a campus where such speech is prohibited. Students were actually more likely to give that response than adults generally.
But when asked specifically about “slurs and other language on campus that is intentionally offensive to certain groups,” 69 percent of college students said that colleges should be allowed to impose restrictions on such expression.
Eric Holmberg, the student body president at the University of Chicago, said the letter suggested that administrators “don’t understand what a trigger warning is,” and seemed “based on this false narrative of coddled millennials.”
“It’s an effort to frame any sort of activism on campus as anti-free-speech, just young people who are upset,” Mr. Holmberg said, “when in reality I’d say the administration is far more fearful of challenge than any student I know.”
Sara Zubi, a Chicago junior majoring in public policy, said the dean’s letter seemed contrary to some of the support programs the university has created or endorsed, like a “safe space program” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. “To say the university doesn’t support that is really hypocritical and contradictory,” she said, “and it also just doesn’t make sense.”