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