January 7, 2016 | By Jeremy Gillula

Binge On Lite? Ask for the Truth about T-Mobile Video Throttling

At Noon Today, Demand Real Answers from John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile

T-Mobile's Binge On service could have been great. Giving customers a choice about how to use their data so that they can stream more video without hitting their data cap is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, T-Mobile botched the roll out. Without asking, they made it the default for all of their customers. In other words, they decided to throttle all video—not just zero-rated video. And they claimed to be using “video optimization technology throughout [their] network” even though their network doesn’t actually alter video content in any way. EFF uncovered these facts and more through testing earlier this week, and our research ignited a backlash across T-Mobile’s Netflix-loving community.

Now, T-Mobile is on the defensive.  John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, is hosting a Q&A on Twitter today, starting at noon Pacific time, in an attempt to quell concerns. That means concerned members of the digital public have an opportunity to discuss the issues directly with Mr. Legere. Just use the hastag #AskJohn.

We’ve drafted a few questions, but it’s far better if you come up with your own questions, in your own words. It’s vital that T-Mobile understands that their technology choices affects the lives of millions, and those millions are willing to speak out.

Some questions you might want to ask:

  1. The @EFF research found that Binge On throttles video. Will you ensure that Binge On doesn’t downgrade all my video? #AskJohn
  2. How exactly does TMo's "adaptive video tech" work? Does it actually alter content of video streams in TMo's network? #AskJohn
  3. Why was Binge On enabled for unlimited customers who don't need to worry about "stretching their data?" #AskJohn
  4. Why not make Binge On opt-in, instead of opt-out? #AskJohn
  5. Does Binge On zero-rate all video it throttles/"optimizes" (including non-enrolled providers)? If not, why not? #AskJohn

T-Mobile seems to be arguing that downgrading video quality is not actually throttling, but we disagree. "Throttling" means that when a video stream hits T-Mobile's network, its bandwidth is capped. If the video provider's server has the capability to adapt the quality of the video, then the server can do that—but it is the video provider that is using "adaptive video technology," not T-Mobile. In other words, T-Mobile just constrains the bandwidth, and it's up to video providers to make sure their videos stream smoothly.

This isn't semantics—it's apples and oranges.

If T-Mobile wanted to give its customers more choice, it would have made Binge On opt-in, not opt-out. And if Binge On was really about helping customers stretch their data, then T-Mobile wouldn’t have automatically enabled Binge On for customers with unlimited data. They would also zero-rate all videos they throttle, not just the videos of providers who have enrolled.

The fact is, T-Mobile isn't being honest with its customers. We agree with John Legere: it’s time to set the record straight.


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