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EFF: T-Mobile's Binge On is throttling video streaming speeds

EFF: T-Mobile's Binge On is throttling video streaming speeds
Last week, T-Mobile released a statement regarding Binge On. This is the feature that allows T-Mobile subscribers to stream video from certain content providers, without using data from their monthly allowance. In the statement, the carrier made it clear that it was engaging in "mobile optimization," and was not throttling the video streams. T-Mobile added that because Binge On optimizes video, the streams should be "just as fast, if not faster than before."

As we pointed out, T-Mobile wanted to stay away from the word "throttling" because such an act goes against the rules of net neutrality. In addition, the issue came up because T-Mobile customers wanted to know why their YouTube streams were being "downgraded" (another word that T-Mobile grudgingly said was acceptable instead of "throttling") when Google's video-sharing site wasn't part of Binge On.

Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also went after T-Mobile and Binge On. The organization confirms that T-Mobile is lowering the data speed of all HTML5 video streamed by its customers, not just those available with Binge On. EFF ran a series of tests using the same phone, during the same time of day, and made sure that there was a good 4G LTE connection at all times. Each test was run twice, one using an HTTP connection which allowed T-Mobile's network to recognize the video content and optimize it. The other test was dome using an HTTPS connection which prevented the network from optimizing the stream.

The results? According to the EFF, all HTML5 video streams on T-Mobile are throttled to 1.5Mbps speed even if the content provider is not signed up with Binge On, and the phone can stream at faster speeds. The EFF also found that contrary to T-Mobile's comments, the carrier's so-called optimization does not change the video being streamed for the better. The bottom line, according to the organization, is that "T-Mobile’s “optimization” consists entirely of throttling the video stream’s throughput down to 1.5Mbps." And if a video is more than 480p and the server involved in streaming it cannot make adjustments on the fly to lower the speed, T-Mobile customers are stuck with stuttering video that doesn't result in a pleasant viewing experience.

EFF says that T-Mobile should stop throttling the streaming speeds of providers who did not sign up for Binge On (like YouTube, for example). Another suggestion is to make subscribers opt in to receive Binge On, with the carrier disclosing that all videos streamed using the feature are throttled.

Lastly, the EFF suggests that the FCC investigate. The agency already has Binge On in their crosshairs (along with features provided by AT&T and Comcast) and the EFF says that what T-Mobile is doing results in "significant consumer harm."

source: EFF via FierceWireless
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