Stanford law professor tells the FCC that T-Mobile's Binge On is illegal

Stanford law professor tells the FCC that T-Mobile's Binge On is illegal
Barbara van Schewick, a Stanford University law professor and net neutrality expert, filed a 51-page document with the FCC explaining why T-Mobile's Binge On is illegal. With Binge On, T-Mobile customers get to stream video from certain content providers without having the data used subtracted from their monthly data allowance.

In her document, Professor Schewick gives six reasons why Binge On violates the FCC's Open Internet Order of 2015. One reason is that by not deducting the data used for Binge On video streaming from the subscriber's account, it is giving Binge On providers a competitive advantage making their video more attractive than data streamed by others. In addition, the professor adds that Binge On narrows consumer choice by allowing users to watch unlimited amounts of video from Binge On providers, but not from other providers who aren't Binge On partners.

Other issues mentioned in the document include Binge On's technical requirements, which won't work with some video streamers that use different protocols like YouTube. The carrier says that these technical requirements are important so that it can know who the content provider is. But the professor says "Binge On allows some providers to join easily and creates lasting barriers for others, especially small players, non-commercial providers, and start-ups. As such, the program harms competition, user choice, free expression, and innovation."

In comparing Binge On with T-Mobile's similar feature for music streamers called Music Freedom, van Schewick says that some smaller content providers waited as long as 18 months to be included in the service, while others never heard from the carrier.

T-Mobile says that its subscribers can disable Binge On, and has made it easier to do so. To show how popular the feature has become, it pointed out yesterday that 34 petabytes (approximately 34,000 terrabytes) of video have been streamed for free by the mobile operator's customers.

The professor also wrote the FCC over what she says is deceptive advertising on T-Mobile's part. She says that Binge On is not really unlimited since users can't use it if they go over their data cap by other means. She wrote the FCC that "T-Mobile's advertising misleads customers and likely violates the FCC's transparency rule." Just the other day, we told you how a consumer advocacy group has filed a complaint with the FCC over T-Mobile's advertising.


T-Mobile has yet to respond to news of van Schewick's letter, but as soon as we hear from them, we will let you know. In the meantime, you can read the professor's report by clicking on the sourcelink.

source: vanSchewick via  FierceWireless

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33 Comments

3. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Seems to me that Barbara has too much free time. Unless, of course, she got paid by Sprint or something to write this 51 page letter...

6. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Ikr, she should just join t-mobile and reap the benefits, instead of complaining about violations and s**t.

17. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Sprint/Carriers supporting Net neutrality? lol

20. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

They'll support it when it suits their purposes, and raise hell when it doesn't.

4. ljmusclemilk

Posts: 3; Member since: Aug 08, 2015

The issue here is perspective. I personally see more benefit here of binge on demand vs. not having it. Now before any of you jump down my throat try to view it from my point of view as well. By T-Mobile offering this service they have stirred up the competition. You have to admit Magenta has done right for the consumers by changing the industry (stateside at least) by putting pressure on the major carriers and the effects are well known. Don't listen to me, take a look at what a 2gb single line plan costs with Verizon 18 months ago vs now and you'll see. Now when you have carriers of this size making changes to lower plans, increase data, offering to buy out your contracts or device payment plan. Are you kidding me, you now have Verizon BUYING OUT CUSTOMERS and ATT is now offering UNLIMITED DATA once again. Why is all this happening, it's not from the kindness of Big Red and Blue. It's because what use to be the smallest of the 4 nationwide carriers has put a lot of pressure on the industry. People on Verizon, ATT and Spint are now getting more and paying less because of this. PS: as for "someone12" above. You don't need to be an AHOLE to people to prove a point. Just show how ignorant you are.

8. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

Don't bring up that tmo charges nothing for providers to join their service, they just ask that a certain code is used to identify the traffic. Or that the quality of all video regardless of provider is the same. THat s**t stirs up people like no other. ;)

13. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

This sounds like the same silly argument Apple fans used to justify its price fixing of ebooks. Illegal is illegal, and even if there is a net gain for society (which, honestly, in this case doesn't outweigh the harm of weakening net neutrality), it doesn't stop it being illegal. If I go all Robin Hood, and start stealing from billionaires and distributing it to the poor, while I may have a positive effect overall, I'm still doing something illegal, and still subject to arrest and punishment.

29. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

But it is NOT illegal, there is nothing in it that is anti competitive to any provider because its FREEEEE for them to join. Not to mention ALL video is pushed down to 1.5Mbps, including providers that have joined. There is no break. How hard is that to understand.

33. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

You're arguing law with a law professor. What are your qualifications vs. hers?

19. lp_522

Posts: 46; Member since: May 31, 2011

You're argument is the comparison of Verizon/others' prices today, than before? Prices went "down" due to the companies no longer subsidizing phones anymore and nixing 2yr contracts. So because of T-Mobile's "innovations" we are now responsible for paying ~$600 retail phones in "no-contract installments/easy pay/ATT NEXT/whatever-tf" for the next 24 months. But if you quit service you STILL have to pay for the remaining months for the phone, meaning its still a damn contract!! Due to them not paying as much to subsidize Samsung/Apple/LG/HTC phones, they keep all that money in their pocket and all we see is slight decrease in our monthly charges. Innovation? Bulls**t is what it is. Thanks T-Mobile.

28. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

So basically you don't want to pay full price for a phone? Let me see you buy a phone for someone on a payment plan, then leave them...and theyhave the Gaul to ask you to pay for the device? Imagine me calling my bank, ok im no longer want any of my services with you thanks...oh wait what, you want me to pay my house payments? But I don't want to...wahhh...seriously.

34. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

His argument is that T-Mobile didn't really change much. Uncoupling phones from contracts just shifted the cost to a different column.

43. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

You cant pay off your contract in 1 month, you can pay off the phone in 1 month and leave. See the difference? No you don't and neither does he.

51. lp_522

Posts: 46; Member since: May 31, 2011

"So basically you don't want to pay full price for a phone?" To put it simple, hell no I don't! Long answer, it's more complicated than that: Wireless providers charge an absorbent premium to access their services compared to other nations. Instead of cannibalizing profits by reducing monthly service charges, T-mo gave the illusion of cheaper plans and no contracts while saving an assload of red by eliminating subsidies. Meaning, yes its less monthly, but it pails in comparison to what they saved by eliminating subs. It was a gamble and the masses fell for it, all the other big companies followed suit. The only thing I agree with is with izim1, but in reality most people aren't discipline enough to keep an old phone too long. I loathe my old G2 and would love me a new $650 iPhone 6s in $30xInstallments (sarcasm LOL.) Luckily for me, Good Guy Sprint still honors contracts for grandfather plans... at least for now. So I'll extend my contact and pay my $199 and be on my merry way.

5. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

Professor that have too much freetime :-/ btw, read your title again.. its "T-Mobile's"

14. GreatBigPhoney

Posts: 70; Member since: Jan 27, 2015

Yes but Verizon's "FreeBee Data" is totally fine.

15. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3123; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

I think the lady doth protest too much.

16. cc2400

Posts: 74; Member since: Aug 21, 2014

so basically 51 pages of bulls**t. her goal was probably to submit so many pages in the argument that it will try to confuse whomever tries to read it.

21. JMartin22

Posts: 2369; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

Can't these people and advocate groups shut the **** up? Lol, these features are optional and give subscribers more choice what they can or can't use their data allotment on.

22. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

This lawsuit sounds like a load of crap. According to the web definition: http://lmbtfy.com/?q=define+net+neutrality "Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites." So, Binge On is technically favoring the providers that join the program. However, there's nothing stopping others from joining if they so desired. So this lawsuit is suing T-Mobile 'cause other providers haven't been able to modify their service to join in? That's not T-Mobile's fault from my understanding. This lawsuit sounds as stupid as suing some internet service provider 'cause their DNS translates certain set of websites faster/more efficiently than others. If you don't like their DNS service, simply disable it, nothing is stopping you from doing so.

23. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

The point is, whether it's optional or not, and whether it's free to join or not, it's favoring some data over other data. Under the current rules, that's not allowed.

25. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

"whether it's optional or not, and whether it's free to join or not" But it is optional and free. Doesn't mean it's not gonna require effort on the video service provider's part.

35. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Again, optional our free to join are irrelevant to the situation. Net Neutrality requires ALL data to be treated the same way.

38. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

So 'cause of Net neutrality, I can't have my ISP provide me a money-saving service? If ALL data is being treated the same, then we wouldn't be able to have the following: - Unlimited music streaming via Spotify/Pandora apps. - Optimized and free Video streaming like Binge-On offers. - Carrier SmartPhone apps that allow us manage and track our account usage from our SmartPhones without consuming our own data. This is the user's choice if they want the benefits or not. Users can end the favoring website favoring by disabling the service. Net Neutrality would be violated only if this was being FORCED on the user, which it isn't. In that case there would be no option to "enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites". No need to be demanding everyone lose such good, optional and free service just 'cause you don't like it. That'll be using Net Neutrality as excuse for dictatorship. Jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

49. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

The Spotify/Pandora part is irrelevant, since their data is delivered over the carrier's pipes. The other two, yes, they run afoul of the rules. Every bit needs to be treated interchangeably. The law is the law. All data delivered by carriers is supposed to be treated exactly the same. I have no opinion on Binge On, since I have Verizon unlimited.

50. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

"The Spotify/Pandora part is irrelevant, since their data is delivered over the carrier's pipes" Uhm, which data isn't delivered from the ISP in the first place? Please elaborate. This law is starting to sound like a double-standard.

24. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

You don't get exceptions to the law because a circumstance could be different. I roll up to a red light, and look both ways and there's not a car in sight for miles, I still have to waitwait for green. Illegal is illegal, and you don't get to break a law because you think it's stupid or pointless.

31. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

TMO stopped at the red light, your barring of what is legal or illegal is a little off here, you have yet to provide one instance of where it breaks any net neutrality law, you haven't even cited the law to begin with.

36. tedkord

Posts: 17311; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I haven't because I'm not an expert in the law. Neither are you. I was simply illustrating that your examples are silly and you don't know what you're talking about. I'd bet a Harvard law professor knows quite a bit more than you. Laws are situational. They're defined. If Net Neutrality requires ALL data to be treated exactly the same, then making some not count violates it.

44. elitewolverine

Posts: 5192; Member since: Oct 28, 2013

All Data is treated the same, the speeds at 1.5Mbps. Net I am going to sue youtube because their services are free and Netflix are not. Unfair advantage...wahhhhh

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