This morning, T-Mobile and its CEO, John Legere, had a whole bunch things to say about their Binge On video service. Not only did they announce a handful of new partners for Binge On, but Legere also addressed all of the recent “throttling” talk surrounding their “optimized” video streams.
Before we get into the throttling fun, the list of new partners includes A&E, Lifetime, HISTORY, PlayStation Vue, Tennis Channel Anywhere, FuboTV, Kidoodle TV, Curiosity Stream, Fandor, Newsy, ODK Media, Lifetime Movie Club, and FYI. There should be 14 in total that went live today, which brings Binge On’s partner list up to 38.
OK, now to the interesting stuff.
A couple of weeks ago, YouTube and Google reached out to the Wall Street Journal because they had concerns about T-Mobile’s Binge On. Their claim was that T-Mobile was throttling or downgrading all video traffic on their network, not just for services that were participating in Binge On. YouTube, in case you were wondering, is not participating and was seeing their videos play at the lower 480p Binge On rate by default, almost as if they were a partner.
T-Mobile didn’t exactly respond to these accusations in a timely manner. Instead, their PR teams talked to sites like ours to clarify that they didn’t believe this was throttling and that it was more like optimizing.
Then to start this week, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) released a report that suggested Binge On was 100% throttling and that the FCC should launch an investigation into it because they believe there might be net neutrality issues. Well, this report and the headlines it grabbed were finally enough to get John Legere to respond.
In the video below, you can hear what he has to say.
His basic argument is that this is a great service for a lot of people, because it doesn’t use up their data bucket and it doesn’t cost anyone anything. Legere doesn’t see how anyone can complain about it. He also mentions that people can turn this off whenever they want. And look, if you try and see it in its simplest terms, which is how Legere tries to explain it, then yeah, it does seem like a great service.
Here’s the problem, though. If YouTube (or any other video service) doesn’t want their service to be a part of Binge On, then T-Mobile shouldn’t be downgrading anything played on YouTube. Plain and simple. Outside of that, understand that Binge On is turned on by default, so some people may not know that all of their video streaming is being downgraded to “DVD” quality of 480p. That’s an issue because, well, most of us feel that services like Binge On should be “opt-in” not “opt-out.” Customers should choose out of the gate if they want to participate in something like this.
Again, I don’t think anyone is arguing with John Legere that video being streamed at a lower quality for free, isn’t normally a bad thing. But in the end, T-Mobile shouldn’t get to decide and be the gatekeeper in an “opt-out” scenario.