Jul 30 AT 10:55 AM Nick Sarafolean 15 Comments

Virgin Mobile introduces customizable plan that endangers net neutrality


This morning, Virgin Mobile announced a new plan to give users maximum control over the plan. Virgin Mobile Custom is a new plan that allows users to change their plan on the fly in an effort to save even more money. While the traditional staples of talk, text and data are factored into the plan, it goes deeper than that. Virgin Mobile Custom takes services and apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Spotify and turns them into extras that you can pay more for on your bill.

Plans are set up in a family style, with talk, text and data split between up to five people. One user, presumably the parent, can adjust the plan for every user, bringing parental control to an entirely new level. Not only can talk, text and data be limited and controlled, but a parent can disable apps and services at different times of the day. For example, a parent could cut off social media during the school day and at night. The options are wide open.

Virgin Mobile Custom (2)

Such an approach brings with it major concerns. The quick customization could easily be abused and gives parents a level of control that some would argue they shouldn’t have. Virgin Mobile Custom is also markedly against net neutrality. By turning services into items to pay for on your bill, it’s prioritizing services over others on the Internet. Even from a practical standpoint, the move doesn’t make much sense by charging users extra for services if they would prefer them not to count towards their normal data allotment. Even a simple link from one of those services will take you from it into something else, which will count towards your data.

Talk and text can be shared between lines by paying for a certain amount, or users can individually get options for unlimited talk or text. Data is shared between users, but can be allotted by the plan controller if they feel the need to do that. Unlimited data is not an option on Virgin Mobile Custom. The plan is currently only available on three new budget devices: the LG Unify for $129.88, the LG Pulse for $99.88 and the ZTE Pulse for $79.88.

While Virgin Mobile Custom has glaring flaws, it’s designed for a crowd that likely won’t be concerned with them. Virgin Mobile Custom is targeted at the crowd looking to save as much money as possible. In reality though, better deals can often be found elsewhere, along with plans that don’t blatantly infringe on net neutrality.

Via: The Verge

Source: Virgin Mobile

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @nsarafolean.

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  • Blane

    Oh for shit’s sake. This ridiculous, sensationalist headline is pathetic. Giving a parent control over the content to which their children are exposed and at what times has nothing to do with Net Neutrality. I don’t like to outright insult someone, but you’re an idiot, plain and simple.

    • JP

      Actually paying a premium for usage of Facebook and other basic services has everything to do with net neutrality…

      • eClipse

        It really doesn’t, this is choice, see Blane’s comment.

        A service provider which >up front< provides for more control of the product, and in turn offers lower cost, is not the same as backbone providers who are also content providers throttling the connections of their competitors.

        • Jimmy_Jo

          Charging people for free services is pretty much the basis for the net neutrality disputes. Companies are trying to slowly get us to pay for things that we shouldn’t have to but market them as a convenience for us. You want faster Netflix and PlayStation streaming and gaming…. Just pay $10 per month and get super fast internet! (that you’re already paying for)

          • eclipse

            Again, an “offering” has nothing to do with net neutrality, neither do parental controls.

            The net neutrality argument begins and ends at the content providers, not any individual service plan.

            Sprint announced today they are going to offer a Facebook / Twitter only data plan.
            That sounds dumb to me, but for others may have value.

            If you contract with a service provide which makes no indication that any traffic is treated differently, then you have a possible neutrality argument if your provider is found throttling content on an individual basis, providing a cafeteria service of only certain types of traffic is consumer choice.

            As to all these comments about what does, or does not constitute “good parenting” irrelevant to the discussion. This option is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. At least using this is better
            then most parents i see that just hand their kids a phone and a PC and say “have at it”.

    • Blane

      No, my original comment did not sufficiently exude disdain for the author of this article. First off, Net Neutrality deals with corporations deciding what content gets to you at what speed. It is not about the consumer deciding to remove unwanted traffic in favor of other traffic. Net Neutrality is about the consumer having no control over their content, not more control. Second, you’re an idiot. I just can’t get over how ridiculously brain-dead you must be to post something like this. To try to connect these dots. Seriously. It’s like saying the McDonald’s threatens democracy by allowing you to choose what’s on your burger. Doesn’t make sense? No shit. Neither does this.

  • eClipse

    “control that some would argue they shouldn’t have”.

    Let’s not confuse net neutrality with parenting, they are not connected.
    A parent writing the check gets to make the rules, and if those rules include “stay off social media” on your cell phone, so be it.

    I am just as strongly in favor of net neutrality as anyone else, but when you start muddying the waters with unrelated comments, its makes the conversation more confused across the board.

    I see the argument that this could set a precedent, or at least try to, but considering how widely different data pricing is in the mobile vs. home broadband area, I’m not so sure.

  • SeriouslyYouSirAreTHEdaysJackarse

    No, you’re all missing the point. let’s not confuse living at home in your mom’s basement with actually knowing something about paying your own way. Let me guess, you don’t have any kids – right?

    Restricting through apps and offering those as a pay option is only a deterrent and has very little do with parenting and more to do with just having authority.
    Regardless, just because you restrict an app doesn’t make for good or bad parenting – it’s all subjective.
    Core values and the way you bring your kids up is what separates good parents and bad parents.
    So, not to deviate from the point of the article or help feed dbag Blane’s trolling ego, overall the restriction option isn’t necessarily a great option.
    Facebook can be accessed via a browser- who cares about the app?
    Your kids are going to gain access to facebook if they want to gain access to facebook, period. They don’t need a phone with an app do that.

    The control features they’re offering are a waste.
    Here’s a little tip from someone who’s an actual parent – me:
    You want your kid off the phone? Tell them get off and take the phone away. Problem solved.
    You want your kidd off of a facebook app? Tell them get off the facebook app and take the phone away, problem solved.
    Don’t rely on someone else to do it for you and pay them for it.

    • SeriouslyYouSirAreTHEdaysJackarse

      Oh, and Blane- No, YOU are the idiot:

      …Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication….

      PRINCIPLE being the key term here. So, Nick Sarafolean may see ahead of things here. Why? Well, Blane, it is when we allow the smaller things like this to occur it opens the door for other such things to become more acceptable and common place. For instance, when you troll with your moronic comments and go unchecked, you start thinking it’s OK and you do it some more. The more it is allowed, the more of an idiot you make of yourself. Now you start wandering all over the net with your “idiocity”….and boom! the internet dies because your trolling first went unchecked. So, with the net neutrality principle in mind- you will NOT go unchecked and You sir remainTHE jackarse of the internet.

    • Deck

      I couldn’t disagree with you more. With your “logic” blocking inappropriate images and sites on my son’s laptop would also endanger net-neutrality. I guess I should just take his laptop instead of blocking access? I mean I payed for the laptop, and pay for the Internet, so why shouldn’t I be able to decide when and what data they can consum? I think parents get phones for their kids so they can reach them and that’s going to be hard when you’re always taking it away from them instead of blocking the content that the parent doesn’t seem fit. The control features are far from a waste as I could block data (can’t get on the FB webpage if you have no data, can you?) and text instead of taking their phone so we can still be in contact when needed. I have two kids so that must qualify me to this option.
      Now, that said, paying premiums for access to certain apps/sites/data is a completely different story, though isn’t T-Mobile already doing this by allowing certain music streaming services to not count towards data?

      • SeriouslyYouSirAreTHEdaysJackarse

        You should monitor your kids usage- ummm hello – isn’t that what a parent SHOULD be doing? Point is, if you teach your kids to respect their parents and house rules, then guess what? You take nothing away because they respect the rules.

        Oh hey, Great idea! Block text and data so you can still get a hold of your kids through text! nice. Bottom line is if you have to question what and how they’re using their data- maybe they’re too little for a phone like that?
        Try one of those one-button deals that only receives calls or places them to a set of a few contacts and emergency numbers. But then again, if you don’t know where your kids are in the first place, I suppose “keeping track of them” through their phone is something you’ll need to do.

        There’s other options to block or limit data and it’s usage. but that’s not ideal. I still don’t see how paying to block services is a “good” alternative to simply do your job as a parent.

        Sprint and verizon already have items in place to allow for controlling some data.

        Either way- the stupidity of all this is that it is only a DETERRENT, and not a substitute for parenting.

        • Deck

          Did I ever say get a hold of them through text? Nope, I said block text and data, but you know what’s still left? The feature called “phone calls”. You know the reason we call them phones to begin with? See I never said block calls smart guy, which that is the main thing I want them to be able to do with their “phone”. The rest is a privilege and can be taken away at any time, literally with features such as this. Try to follow along instead of making something into something it’s not! I know where they are at all times, but that doesn’t mean basketball or football practice doesn’t end early and they call me to pick them up, or they are about to leave school and want to go to someone’s house after school and are calling to see if it’s okay with me.

          It’s somewhat about the data they can consume (back to my blocking content on the laptop, but you don’t have to worry about that since your kids would never do that or type something that might have a different meaning in the real world), but more about when and for how long. My kid like to try and sneak his phone to bed (I know, I’m a bad parent) and I could easily set it to where data and text are disables at his bedtime. I guess everyone’s kids can’t be as perfect as yours and never do a thing wrong. So for those of us how have normal kids, that make mistakes, this is great.

          So based on what you’re saying wouldn’t any company that blocks access to site from their employees also fall into this same boat? Would they then be considered back companies since they apparently have “bad” employees that want to get on FB while at work?

          It’s okay for me to motor them, and tell them to not use a given site or app, but it’s not okay to use technology to further enforce that? Did I get that right? Also, it’s alright (according to you) to block data that the carrier level, but not the phone? What? How’s that any different? You seem to be talking out of both sides of your mouth and grasping at straws at this point.

          Sorry that most of us work and can’t be around our kids every second, like you, but that’s life and lucky for us that work we have technology to assist when we can’t be around. Just like those baby monitors I used when they were babies…does it make me a bad parent since I used that? According to you I should have just sat next to them while they slept and known without any assistance from technology.

  • aranea

    To be honest the net neutrality part seems very far fetched. How is it different than T-Mo’s plan in which certain music services don’t count towards your data plan? If they somehow slowed down the other services that would be a red flag!

    The control over kids is a big issue that no self respecting youngster will care about. They will find a way to circumvent the restrictions within the first day. I think it’s more a control over the significant other than the kids. Either way it’s not good.

  • johny

    All the tech blogs needs to just stop reporting for these idiotic companies that start to introduce methods such as this. If you guys all stop reporting and not announcing these dumb plans, maybe these stupid companies will realize that their “cleverly” thought about ideas just don’t stick with people and they’ll change their ways. We give them too much credit for the stupid ideas they come up with. Just ignore them and watch them change, since their ideas don’t have any friction.

  • wwendydog

    Hi, I’m new here!
    Great to meet you!