T-Mobile’s Plan to Give You Free Data for Pokémon Go Is Bad but Also So Good

Free, unlimited Pokémon Go data is definitely tempting.  

Photo by REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images

T-Mobile really, really wants you to know that it’s hip to the haps. The company calls itself the “Un-carrier” and debuts new promotions on a corporate holiday called T-Mobile Tuesdays, so it should shock no one that the mobile provider has found a way to hop on the Pokémon Go bandwagon. If T-Mobile were a character in Mean Girls, it’d be Amy Poehler’s Mrs. George. I’m not like a regular carrier—I’m a cool carrier!

On Thursday, T-Mobile announced that it would offer free, unlimited Pokémon Go data for one year in order to help customers “take their Pokémon Go skillz to a whole new level.” This means that while customers will still pay for mobile data in general, any data they use in the Pokémon Go app won’t count toward their monthly total. To claim the promotion you have to be a T-Mobile customer, of course, and then download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app to actually lock in the deal.

T-Mobile has announced lots of promotions like this, including free data for music streaming and video streaming (which are both data-intensive) if customers use certain approved content providers. This practice is called zero-rating, and cuts against net-neutrality principles by privileging certain internet traffic and subtly steering customers to use some Internet services over others. A big part of an open internet is a level playing field where people can freely choose the services they want to use.

Additionally, as Wired and the Wall Street Journal point out, Pokémon Go isn’t even burning through that much data. Playing the game consistently will obviously use more data than not playing it, but analysts say that the game’s average data consumption per hour falls far below music or video streaming.

Still, many people are reporting frustrations that suggest the T-Mobile promotion will have some big fans. It’s a little bit harder to ask people to be principled about net neutrality when they’ve got Pokémon to catch.