T-Mobile‘s Binge On near unlimited video streaming feature has become the carrier’s most popular Un-carrier moves. At least according to the carrier itself. To prove how popular it is even among streaming video providers, it is expanding its list way ahead of schedule, hinting at the strong demand by providers to join the party. Of course, not everyone is happy about it, particularly YouTube and privacy watchdog EFF, and T-Mobile might even face a formal legal complaint in the future. And of course, CEO John Legere has a few, maybe more than a few, words to say about that.
First, the good news for Binge On fans. T-Mobile has added 14 new services to the VIP list of absolutely free streaming, including A&E, Lifetime, the HISTORY Channel, and PlayStation Vue. That brings the total number to 38 services. And T-Mobile Isn’t being modest when it says that there are 50 more clamoring to be included.
You know who else are clamoring? YouTube, EFF, and a few other interest groups. Their point of contention is this. Binge On does its data and money saving magic by reducing the quality of videos being streamed to users, down to “DVD quality” which is really a sweeter sounding way to say “480p”. For content providers included in Binge On’s exclusive list, any video streamed doesn’t count against the subscriber’s data. In short, it’s absolutely free. The problem is that even videos from providers not in that list get “mobile optimized” regardless and without the provider’s consent. Naturally, YouTube is not to happy about that.
Critics are accusing T-Mobile of throttling. T-Mobile says its simply optimizing the video data. It might be a subtle difference, but one that has grave legal implications. T-Mobile claims that it has developed technology that optimizes, perhaps compresses, video data down to that quality. Throttling, on the other hand, would mean the carrier is artificially reducing bandwidth of the connection itself. If it’s the latter, it would be going against Net Neutrality rules that frown upon favoring one provider over another.
So far, FCC chair Tom Wheeler has cleared Binge On of any such violation. At least on the surface. If any of its critics do file a formal complaint, the commission will have to do some further digging and voting. Until then, Legere and T-Mobile will continue insisting that Binge On is all about choice and all about customers.