T-Mobile CEO John Legere isn’t known for holding back when it comes to press statements, and especially when it comes to less formal channels like social networks. While sometimes entertaining, it does come at the cost of sometimes muddling issues and even turning away allies. That’s is certainly what the outspoken Legere experienced after he had publicly lashed out at privacy advocacy group EFF over the carrier’s Binge On video streaming feature. And, uncharacteristic of the chief exec, he does acknowledge his error and even apologizes for it.
At the heart of the arguments between T-Mobile and Google, EFF, and other critics is how Binge On handles all types of video streaming, whether or not those services signed up for T-Mobile’s program. Legere insists that it uses its proprietary (in other words, top secret) technology to analyze videos and “optimize” them to “DVD quality”, that is to say, 480p or better. For Binge On partner services, data doesn’t get charged. For YouTube and other partners, they still get charged but now only at the fraction of the usual data size.
YouTube and the EFF, however, contend that T-Mobile’s feature is anti-competitive. For one, it doesn’t give streaming content providers a say in the matter. Furthermore, they say that it is against Net Neutrality because T-Mobile throttles the bandwidth of services in favor of partners. When the EFF asked Legere directly on Twitter to clarify this, the CEO responded in a less than professional manner, basically cussing the organization and calling into question its motives. Naturally, the media quickly picked it up and sides were drawn. One Binge On partner was reported to have even left the roster due to it.
Legere has apologized for his “color commentary”, saying that it has unfortunately distracted people from the matter at hand. Of course, he hasn’t changed his stance and insists on the same thing. He emphasizes that Binge On isn’t anti Net Neutrality and is, in fact, all about user choice, as users can choose whether to have Binge On enabled or not.
At this point, some might question how much choice the customer really has. Binge On is enabled by default for T-Mobile customers, an intentional decision by the carrier, and those who might not be aware of the feature might be puzzled to see video streaming quality suddenly degraded. It doesn’t give them a choice beforehand to have it enabled or disabled by default. And perhaps more importantly, it’s an all or nothing feature and users can’t choose to have it enabled just for partner services and disabled elsewhere. Suffice it to say, the debate surrounding T-Mobile’s most popular and unpopular service will continue.