Report: Binge On provides T-Mobile customers with "lower quality videos and unexpected charges"

Report: Binge On provides T-Mobile customers with
A study completed by Northeastern University of T-Mobile's Binge On feature says that the carrier is actually providing its customers with "lower-quality videos and unexpected charges," according to the report. Introduced last November, Binge On allows T-Mobile customers to stream videos from nearly 90 providers without  using their high-speed data. T-Mobile says that the video is presented in 480p (DVD quality) and subscribers can disable the feature, although that would make them responsible for all of the high-speed data used while watching video. Binge On is the most popular of the 11 Un-carrier features announced by the nation's third largest carrier.

David Choffnes, the researcher who led the team that wrote the report, claims that Binge On violates net neutrality because it slows down video from one provider while other providers are not affected. The report says that this is unfair to the provider whose videos are slowed down. For its part, T-Mobile has always dismissed the entire net neutrality issue by pointing out that its subscribers can always disable the feature. But Choffnes argues that Binge On is turned by default. The researcher says that this is unfair because not every T-Mobile subscriber is knowledgeable enough to figure out how to disable the feature.

The report also takes issue with the throttling that he says T-Mobile does to some providers' video streams. According to Choffnes, video from providers who haven't opted in or out to Binge On is given reduced bandwidth when being sent to T-Mobile subscribers. Since video from these providers isn't part of the Un-carrier feature, the report claims that T-Mobile subscribers end up using their high-speed data for this lower quality video stream.

More damaging to T-Mobile was the researcher's discovery that while using Binge On, YouTube was streamed in 360p resolution. When the feature was disabled, resolution went up to 1080p (FHD) resolution. The report says that according to T-Mobile, 480p is available for Binge On, but only when a specific Android device is employed, and only for specific providers. We have to admit that this is the first we've heard about only one Android model providing 480p streams for Binge On, in light of previous comments made by T-Mobile CEO John Legere; in the past, the executive has brought up the 480p DVD quality video for the service.

Lastly, Choffnes questions what his report calls T-Mobile's "simple" detection process that is used to separate a Binge On provider's video streams from a non-provider's video. In one case, he says that his team found a Binge On provider whose videos were labeled incorrectly allowing it to stream in HD by mistake. The researcher also says that T-Mobile subscribers can game the system so that non video content can be used without it counting against their high-speed data. The Northeastern University research team was able to develop software that allowed any web content to be viewed for free. "We realized we could make any network traffic zero rated by just putting the right text in the right place. That is a security vulnerability—it's potentially an open cash register that people can take from," said the researcher.


No doubt we will get a statement soon from T-Mobile. When we do, we will pass it along to you.

source: Phys.org via BGR

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11 Comments

3. talon95

Posts: 1000; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

The researchers should do a study on VP9 and how it reduces required bandwidth over VP8. Anyone using the new codec before every company on the planet has implemented it must also be breaking net neutrality because they have an advantage over companies without the desire, money, equipment, personnel, etc to upgrade. If you haven't noticed this is one of those things that really ticks me off. The only carrier improving anything in the market and when they explicitly give me the option to take free stuff, someone has to go and make a fuss about it like I can't distinguish for myself what's good enough quality to watch.

7. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Net neutrality laws are to keep ISPs treating all internet traffic equally So that anyone can start their own website/service and make it accessible to anyone with internet access Net neutrality laws only apply to ISPs, not websites/webservices Therefore VP9/VP8 have nothing to do with net neutrality That being said, IMO Binge on doesn't infringe net neutrality Please read up on net neutrality is before judging

10. talon95

Posts: 1000; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

That was my point. Anyone can have their video 0 rated if they take the time to put the right headers on it. Just like using a new open source codec they can choose to do it if they want and it gives them the benefits that come with that. An ISP can't charge for 0 rating, then I would agree with you. You missed the point of my logic I guess. In addition Google is an ISP to, and provides VP9 for free also, so just like t-mobile they provide instructions for implementing code that can be beneficial to content creators in order to serve customers with low bandwidth. Choosing to use either is the choice of those content creators, and while it takes time and energy to implement they can then receive the benefits. Not as different as you thought? Do I still need to read up on it?

13. vincelongman

Posts: 5696; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Like I said above IMO Binge On does not fringe net neutrality (but it comes close) Yes, you need to read up on what net neutrality is Net neutrality laws are about internet access And therefore only apply internet access (not single everything an ISP does) They dont apply to video codec developement You cant just take laws about internet access and apply them to video codec development So yes, the point of your logic is flawed

17. talon95

Posts: 1000; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

Haha. Oh my. When I sarcastically say they might as well research codes, it is because that would be just as worthless. I'm comparing two things that shouldn't infringe and asking why they study one and not the other. Codecs obviously don't infringe, right up to the point when you have to pay the ISP more to watch a certain codec or they throttle based on Codecs. Binge On and codecs both decrease data used by customers and free up bandwidth. But Yes, the 0 rating is where Binge On comes close to having issues due to implementation requirements. Sorry you didn't follow my argument.

8. user001

Posts: 19; Member since: Sep 16, 2015

Data is data is data. Doesn't "matter" that T-Mo wants to creatively label some and not others. Further, ALL providers that market plans with "unlimited" should be sued. Unlimited has only ONE meaning in that context. Certainly NOT unlimited*! As for BingeOn, I do have a problem with it and how Tmo implemented it. First, in my personal case, I actuall have/pay for their ACTUAL unlimited data plan. Why was BingeOn turned on for me automatically? Didn't ask. Didn't send a text saying "hey it would be awesome if you joined this program to help ease network use..." etc. No they simply without initial warning degraded my content to suit T-Mo desires. So for ALL the customers with "real" unlimited why would this even apply? Secondly, if you accept that data is data is data. Then T-Mo is picking favorites with certain providers/sources and penalizing those that don't accept T-Mo terms. Again...data is data is data. Don't sell products you don't intend to support or cannot. Don't CONTINUE to market service levels you damn well know you can't provide. The sole purpose of BingeOn was to give T-Mo breathing room bandwidth-wise. Contrary to (some) popular belief it was NOT solely to benefit customers. Anyone accepting that is naive. And for those that want to suck down 10's of GB's of the internet over mobile, then yes you should pay for the REAL unlimited. I have no problem with companies marketing service/product or even making a profit. But don't sprinkle glitter on poop and tell me it's fabulous.

11. talon95

Posts: 1000; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

True, it should default to off. But for those without unlimited, which is the majority, and especially those with kids, it's glitter on stacks of cash. Not only can they buy a basic plan but they can watch unlimited Netflix /YouTube and still have LTE for Web. I think you're just jealous you paid for unlimited. So turn it off and enjoy 1080p, or just switch.

12. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Actually they did send you a text message. And it was printed on bills if I'm not mistaken. As well they are under no contract to contact you. You talk about real this and real that, how about you use your terms and conditions. It specifically states that TMO can do whatever the hell they please in regards to services, without having to notify you. Golly, you pay for something, put up a hissy fit, yet didn't take the 5mins to read your own terms and conditions? Also unlimited data plans have tethering limits, binge on works through tethering, so there is one benefit an unlimited member may use. As well by keeping binge on despite being unlimited if you keep it on the whole month you get a free movie from vudu. But screw FACTS. Let me guess you don't have a home button....then after 5mins you finally found it and the customer agent just had to describe the home button 15 different ways for you to find it, we call you a special snowflake. Also all ISP's....ALLLLLLLLL have fair usage rights in them. I have personally seen accounts with 150GB/month of usage. As well if you really want to get technical, TMO could ban you from their service if they find you are using their services to illegally download movies....showbox anyone? Not saying you do, however, I have yet to meet/help one person that complains about 'unlimited' data not being 'real' that didn't have a torrent or showbox type app to watch movies illegally.... As well you can turn it on/off from a short code, the tmobile app, or online. Literally every single way you can possibly interact with TMO...allows you to disable it.

14. trublackrose

Posts: 45; Member since: Apr 14, 2015

you are correct. Unlimited does have one meaning. And one meaning only. Unlimited Data means, exactly that. It does not state "unlimited speeds" only that the amount of data you use is unlimited.

19. bubbadoes

Posts: 1225; Member since: May 03, 2012

Why isn't the t mobile rep trolling this article?

20. Shauk

Posts: 33; Member since: Mar 29, 2016

So the headline says "unexpected charges" but nowhere in the article does it explain this. As someone who is familiar with their billing practices I call B.S. People continuing to bitch about something they have complete control over is pointless. Ignorance is not a defense.

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