Virgin Mobile's new build-your-own smartphone plans may be seen as convenient by many consumers, but they also represent the most glaring net neutrality foul we've seen come from a US carrier. The Sprint-owned company likely suspects that most people won't care about the latter point. Starting next month, Virgin customers will be able to piece together a completely personalized plan — plans that could potentially turn social networks like Facebook and Twitter into line items on your monthly bill. Because with Virgin's new approach, you're no longer just paying for voice, texts, and a bucket of data. The Virgin Mobile Custom plans, launching exclusively at Walmart on August 9th, let you pay separate fees for things like unlimited social networking and unlimited music streaming.
Unlimited Facebook is a thing now
T-Mobile led the way on giving music apps special treatment, but Virgin is taking that idea and running with it. There's a $5 unlimited music plan, and paying $15 a month will let you use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest to your heart's content. None of that activity will be counted against your regular data plan, though obviously this changes the minute you click a link that leads outside any of those apps. If Facebook is all you need, that price comes down to $5. Virgin says none of these companies paid anything to be included as an add-on; it's just trying to pick things that people actually use every day.
Mobile Custom plans can be adjusted on the fly (even daily), with everything controlled via the web or an Android app. If you suddenly realize your family won't use all the texts you've paid for, you can lower the allotment mid-month and get a refund for the difference. That's genuinely convenient, as are the deep parental controls that Virgin is offering: apps can be completely blocked off during certain times of day with a couple taps. And there are other add-ons that don't immediately sound net neutrality alarms, like the ability to buy 30 minutes of international calling for a specific country.
Virgin's plans will only support three low-level Android phones to start, including the LG Unify ($129.88), the LG Pulse ($99.88), and the ZTE Emblem ($79.88). That selection yet again shows you who the Virgin Mobile Custom program is intended for: families looking to save as much as possible on phone service every month. It's unlikely those same people will be throwing their arms up in the air over net neutrality issues. Further, any complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears since the government doesn't enforce net neutrality on wireless networks. So far as the FCC is concerned, Virgin Mobile isn't doing anything wrong here.