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

Posted: , by Alan F.

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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."

"In the meantime, if T-Mobile doesn’t change its behavior then it’s up to the FCC to follow up. After all, the net neutrality rules aren’t just words on a piece of paper—they’re regulations meant to protect Internet users from precisely this sort of abuse of power by ISPs. We believe the FCC should regulate lightly, but our research suggests this is a significant consumer harm that runs afoul of well-established open internet principles. The FCC can and should step in and hold T-Mobile accountable."-EFF

According to tests done by the EFF, T-Mobile throttles all HTML5 video to 1.5Mbps

According to tests done by the EFF, T-Mobile throttles all HTML5 video to 1.5Mbps

source: EFF via FierceWireless

  • Options

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 17:36 2

1. Mreveryphone (Posts: 1320; Member since: 22 Apr 2014)

First World Problems.....

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 17:37 3

2. SyCo87 (Posts: 70; Member since: 19 Sep 2013)

Caught with their pants down. LAIRS!!!!!

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 18:01

5. TheWeasel (Posts: 403; Member since: 26 Dec 2014)

Ogres are like onions, they both have lairs...err...layers.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 17:51 3

3. theguy2345 (Posts: 1216; Member since: 24 Jun 2014)

I was trying to watch YouTube video today with three bars of LTE, and it just wouldn't load. Now I know why. I have unlimited data too, so I don't care about saving it. This is just a scummy way for T-Mo to save a quick buck. Hopefully the FCC comes in and takes that quick stuff away. And then some.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 23:35 3

16. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

Then turn it off. I would call you a brainless FOOOL, but if you seriously cannot be bothered to log into Tmobile.com, and click on your profile and turn off binge, then you deserve to be throttled for no reason

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 00:36 2

20. SprintGuy26 (Posts: 229; Member since: 21 Mar 2011)

Right if u dont like it then just turn it off!!!....see if this was vzw or AT&T they wouldnt have a option for u to be able to turn on this feature...prob give u a answer like, we are now working on the issue thank you for being a cusstomer

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 02:08

24. joe1blue (Posts: 169; Member since: 25 Jul 2013)

How do You turn it off? I'm on the unlimited plan and for the padt month or so I have been noticing a lot of buffering on YouTube even when I have full LTE :/

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 02:19 1

25. joe1blue (Posts: 169; Member since: 25 Jul 2013)

Never mind I got it Lol

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 11:41

31. medicci37 (Posts: 1335; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)

Learn how to read before calling someone a brainless fool. Even if you don't have binge T-Mobile is downgrading speeds ....Dumbass

posted on 20 Jan 2016, 10:50

33. cfprelude (Posts: 139; Member since: 27 Oct 2011)


posted on 04 Jan 2016, 17:55

4. phonehome (Posts: 811; Member since: 19 Dec 2014)

Because digital data transfer is a limited resource. Just like fossil fuels, as well as lobster tails at an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 19:02

6. mike2959 (Posts: 578; Member since: 08 Oct 2011)

Dad always said "if it's to good to be true, it's all BS" lol.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 19:13

7. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 14501; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)

I watch videos on my T-mobile connection and they have always played. The only think I. Oliver now is that the audio and video don't match.

I mostly just play videos that are only audio with just a generic inage. But today I. Opined that when I play a video that is like for example a music video, the. Ideology and audio aren't moving at the same pace.

T-mobile doesn't have enough subscribers to do such.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 19:38

8. djkhalid (Posts: 118; Member since: 01 Jul 2013)

Those SOB's! No wonder a lot of times videos fail to load despite having 4 bars of LTE. I didnt even sign up for Binge On!

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 20:17

12. Bernoulli (Posts: 4326; Member since: 01 Sep 2012)

You're signed on automatically and have to opt out from it.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 23:36 1

17. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

Simple, Turn it off. Also if I am not mistaken, all subscribers got a email and sms about the feature with a link to 'know more'.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 09:02

30. ShadowHammer (Posts: 123; Member since: 13 Mar 2015)

I did, and my plan doesn't even qualify for Binge On.

The only thing that I think T-Mobile could have been more clear on was exactly how they were getting you 3x the video for the same amount of data. I don't recall anything in the fine print that said we throttle all video feeds to 1.5 mbps to accomplish this 3x compression. They do mention 480p, but don't explain how they limit it to that. I guess now we do know how they do that.

Anyway, I'm not too bothered by it since you can opt out whenever you like.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 19:40

9. ChrisM47 (Posts: 3; Member since: 06 Aug 2012)

People act like they're forcing this. BingeOn is an option you can easily turn it off by logging into your T-Mobile account online........ I have unlimited and didn't like the throttling so I turned it off and no harm done.

Haters gonna hate.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 19:47

10. sip1995 (Posts: 1687; Member since: 07 Feb 2014)

Is it turned on by default ?

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 23:39

19. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

Everyone got an sms about it, turn it off.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 20:00

11. djkhalid (Posts: 118; Member since: 01 Jul 2013)

wow i didnt know it can be turned off. I just turned it off

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 22:37

14. Gemmol (Posts: 792; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)

Read what John wrote

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 00:41

21. Deicide (Posts: 82; Member since: 02 Jul 2011)

You just lost your unlimited data.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 01:46

22. djkhalid (Posts: 118; Member since: 01 Jul 2013)

what r u talking about

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 21:57

13. johnbftl (Posts: 281; Member since: 09 Jun 2012)

You didn't bother reading the article did you? Even using a line that did not have the feature, they were throttled down.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 23:06 1

15. khul00 (Posts: 24; Member since: 06 Sep 2014)

Don't believe you understood it, when they say providers who are not supported. It means that they still have the feature turned on, just that the providers of the videos even if they did not agree to be throttled are being throttled. The just changed the format of the video so that Binge on didn't recognize it.

posted on 04 Jan 2016, 23:38

18. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

Binge on, once more, is not a single feature. Seriously are you guys this uneducated?! Turn it off. Also I can perform so many tests to show otherwise I wouldn't trust this single test with a ten foot pole. Especially when other sites have reported otherwise.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 02:02 1

23. DnB925Art (Posts: 1060; Member since: 23 May 2013)

I have T-Mo, let's get that out of the way first. What I don't agree with, is having BingeOn throttling video of services that are NOT part of BingeOn. Yes I can opt out of it, but they shouldn't be throttling it in the first place because they are not part of the program and I have to go into T-Mo account settings each and every time I want to watch higher quality video on YouTube, and I can tell the difference on a Note 5 between 480p and FHD. I can lower the quality of YouTube myself in settings if I want to save data.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 07:04

26. elitewolverine (Posts: 5192; Member since: 28 Oct 2013)

But it is not a single package...it is an ENTIRE package. You have unlimited, then you have no need for it to be on other than the free Vudu movie each month and you have to enable it all month for it to even give you a code. So for you...its worth nothing.

Again BingeOn is a feature, not a SINGLE feature...SEVERAL.

posted on 05 Jan 2016, 07:15

27. GreatBigPhoney (Posts: 68; Member since: 27 Jan 2015)

I hope they just choose to stop "optimizing" all video content not associated with the program, not because I care or have had any problems with it at all, but because I don't want the feature to be ruined for the people who like it, by the people who can't read but want to speak the loudest. They should have been more upfront about exactly what they were doing in regards to how they "optimize" the video...they already stated clearly in numerous places almost all content would be "optimized" with the feature turned on...and whether you agree or disagree with it, it doesn't matter in this aspect..it was stated. However I don't entirely blame them for not giving complete specifics, as they were trying to avoid what is happening now, but it's biting them in the butt. So just for the hell of it, here are some words that people can react to: Net Neutrality, Throttling, Lies, FCC, Unlimited, They Took Er Jahbs.

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