American T-Mobile caught breaking net neutrality laws

T-Mobile's Binge On service is similar to zero-rated plans being suggested by telcos in India.

Published Date
08 - Jan - 2016
| Last Updated
08 - Jan - 2016
American T-Mobile caught breaking net neutrality laws

You may not have been following this. After all, T-Mobile is an American telco, which has nothing to do with India. However, it’s new service, Binge On, may be very relevant in light of the current net neutrality debacle in India. The service, which allows users, unlimited access to partnering video streaming services, like Netflix, while charging users for data consumption through others, like YouTube. See how it breaks net neutrality? Well, the arguments against the service were similar to what has been said about Facebook’s Free Basics in India. Critics accused T-Mobile of throttling users’ Internet, not allowing equal access to all services on its network.

The company’s CEO, John Legere, well known for his flamboyance, published a video to answer critics, an answer similar to what what Airtel and Facebook have given in India, but perhaps a little more strongly worded. However, T-Mobile’s real problems are in the fact that while the telco denied throttling services earlier, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has found that it is indeed throttling content based on the provider.

In fact, the fact that T-Mobile was doing this was hidden behind marketing jargon. The word ‘optimised’ was used for explaining the Binge On service. T-Mobile said that it ‘optimises’ the video streams from these services, in order to allow its users to access as much content as they want to. However, in a blog post, the EFF writes, “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.” The EFF tested the service to find that it actually throttles content, contrary to what users were being told.

While T-Mobile being called up for anti net-neutrality activities may not be very relevant to you, it’s a pointer towards what zero-rated plans are capable of and how telecom operators can mask anti net neutrality services under marketing jargon.

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