FCC okay with T-Mobile's Binge On feature, but is "keeping an eye on it"

FCC okay with T-Mobile's Binge On feature, but is
T-Mobile's new Binge On feature is certainly nice from a consumer standpoint, but is also somewhat troubling from a Net Neutrality standpoint. At the very least, the feature is in a murky gray area, and the FCC is acknowledging that. The FCC will allow the feature to continue, but chairman Tom Wheeler said he would be "keeping an eye on it".

T-Mobile's Binge On is a notable new feature that allows certain streaming video content to not count against the data cap of users. In a broad sense, this creates an imbalance where some content may get preferential treatment, which sounds like a Net Neutrality violation, but T-Mobile says no one pays for the privilege and any video provider that meets T-Mobile's specs will be added to the feature. 

Because of this FCC chairman Tom Wheeler called the program "highly innovative and highly competitive", but said the FCC will continue to watch T-Mobile and measure Binge On "against the general conduct rule." Assuming no money exchanges hands (in a noticeable way), and T-Mobile keeps to its promise to allow any video provider that meets its specs, it seems unlikely that the FCC would step in.

However, that shouldn't necessarily be the standard. As much as we may like the option to watch video and not have it count towards our data cap, the fact remains that Binge On creates a system where not all content is treated equally. Measuring up to T-Mobile's specs should not be the standard here, because maybe there are smaller video sites that don't have the resources to make the changes necessary to meet those specs. That is the essential philosophy of Net Neutrality: no one gets preferential treatment. But, this is America, so capitalism becomes infused no matter what the intent. 

And, given that T-Mobile has already been caught making data plans more expensive and complex in the wake of the Binge On announcement, we do hope that the FCC keeps its word to watch out. 

source: Re/code

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14 Comments

1. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

They are not taking away, they are giving. Net neutrality was about crap companies like comcast slowing down company speeds and and double dipping into their pockets which doubled dipped into the consumer pockets by holding speed hostage even though everyone already paid for their services. TM is saying hey you can watch this in this lower format and save your data! or you can watch it in 1080p if you like but it's going effect your data cap like it has always

5. vincelongman

Posts: 5654; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Correct, but net neutrality was also about keeping an equal playing field for all T-Mobile's Binge On gives certain services an unfair advantage, which goes against Net Neutrality T-Mobile should expand so all services get that same advantage, not just the ones paying T-Mobile i.e. ALL lower format content doesn't count towards your data Not just lower format content from certain services

7. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

true, however the way i see it is i am not losing anything as i am getting what was promised to me which is my 10gb plan and these companies can look at it as a form of advertising of course i am sure it can be abused like comcast with them still being literally the only home internet provider who has data caps and outbuys smaller companies to control areas

8. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

Net neutrality doesn't apply only to consumers, but to content providers as well. If a company gives special treatment to say Netflix, but doesn't to Hulu, then it wouldn't be equal treatment. The consumer isn't negatively impacted, unless they favor Hulu over Netflix of course, but someone is affected. If they were to make access to all content free, they might as well be giving you your data for free, because where would it stop? Say they make all streaming content free, then you'll have search providers and app development whose apps need a data connection left at a disadvantage. At what point do you draw the line? Right now they're showing favoritism to certain content providers, which does go against the premise of net neutrality. For net neutrality to work as intended, either no one gets special treatment or everyone does, but then it wouldn't be special treatment. And then they would be giving you access to anything that requires data for free. If they did that, what would be the carriers source of income?

9. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

But they optimize all video formats that support some codecs, meaning even if not on the list you are still getting 3-5x more data from it. To meet the free streaming they have to meet certain standards. Imagine that.

2. javy108

Posts: 1004; Member since: Jul 27, 2014

Im so glad I live in Honduras where unlimited is UNLIMITED... Up to 100Gbs monthly for 35.00 $ + taxes... Hope this paradise remain for years.

4. tacarat

Posts: 854; Member since: Apr 22, 2013

What's your actual throughput? I know T-Mo got into trouble for messing with speedtest results.

11. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Where did they get in trouble? All independent studies have always shown TMO to be the fastest overall

12. tacarat

Posts: 854; Member since: Apr 22, 2013

You're right. Trouble might be strong. In this case they had throttled customers get full speeds when testing the connection. Besides, full speed to the tower doesn't mean things aren't slowed to the actual websites. It's how US providers can say they're giving you X speed, but it's still slow to places you visit. https://www.publicknowledge.org/news-blog/blogs/t-mobile-disguising-throttling-with-new-speed-test-data-cap-exemptions

13. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Working for TMO I can tell you exactly why they do this... Because when a customer needs help, 'my internet is not working' to them literally means if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load they go bat s**t crazy. When you talk about throttling and their data cap they look at you like some dumb struck kid. Or try to argue they didn't use it, this is my favorite. So, by whitelisting sites, they are able to filter out the TRUE data connection issues. People calling in with true issues of no connection. This lets the agent test the connection of the area, and not their throttle. You can then tell them....hey look your connection is good, this is what you would get if not throttled, right now you are on 2G which is about 180Kbps from what I see on a normal day, when your data resets you can expect this speed. Or we can add a data pass that will give you more temporarily if you need the Highspeed access. This isn't to hide anything, this is to aid the tech agents in finding out true problems on the network, without having to 'wait' for their monthly cycle to be reset nor an engineers nightmare of letting thousands of agents adjust white lists. And shows the consumer that yes indeed their connection is good, your just slowed down. As well don't forget, TMO uses speed sites to constantly check on its network for its live page. So if they were to not white list, one throttled person can screw up the entire test.

14. tacarat

Posts: 854; Member since: Apr 22, 2013

I agree. It's a matter of disclosure and non-technical types trying to wrap their heads around the data. Your explanation is great and could be wrapped into a one sentence blurb. Maybe it's been too long, I don't remember the T-Mo PR folks saying such. Either way, my lack of coffee meant I didn't see Javy's data reference was a cap, not a speed. More coffee. I'll send you some telepathically. Thanks for the great write up.

3. TheWeasel

Posts: 403; Member since: Dec 26, 2014

Is Music Freedom also a potential violation of Net Neutrality? Serious question here.

6. vincelongman

Posts: 5654; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Yep, it definitely is It means a new music service needs to pay T-Mobile to be included otherwise many potential customers are less likely to switch since streaming from that service will count

10. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

No because it is not 'exclusive', you can tweet tmobile at any time to ask for new partners all the time. considering there is now 33 partners, its not overly exclusive by any means.

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