Last week, T-Mobile CEO John Legere acted a fool after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called out his Binge On service for throttling all video data and potentially threatening net neutrality rules. He basically pulled out the, “Who the f*ck are you?” card, as if the EFF has some hidden agenda, is below him, and because no one is allowed to talk to King Legere that way. It was embarrassing, if I’m being honest. It was embarrassing because the EFF is one of the few good organizations out there that stands up for sites like this one and for consumers against companies who want to do terrible things.
Today, probably after the entire PR department of T-Mobile told Legere to shut the f*ck for a minute before he does massive damage to the company’s reputation and recent success, Magenta released a “Open Letter to Consumers about Binge On” that is penned by Legere. It is mostly a re-hashing of what he said last week, though it lacks the expletives and attacks on organizations aimed at doing good.
In short, Legere is still praising Binge On as a product that wants to do nothing but good and isn’t trying to violate any net neutrality rules because it’s “free” and can be turned on or off. He apologized to the EFF. He also, at least on paper, is still completely oblivious to the fact that the original arguments against Binge On, the ones that got this whole firestorm cooking, are still out there needing answers.
Here’s the deal – and I hope this is the last time we have to write about this. The general basis or idea of Binge On isn’t a bad one. In fact, it’s quite good for most consumers who have limited pots of data and would like to conserve them. Dropping the quality of video down to 480p (“DVD quality”) on phones to conserve data isn’t the worst idea I’ve heard, depending on how it is implemented. But that’s the thing. The implementation here is pretty much garbage.
For one, T-Mobile shouldn’t have turned on Binge On for everyone without asking. Forget John Legere telling you that they wanted all of T-Mobile’s customers to experience it right away without hassle; that argument is bullshit and doing so was the wrong thing to do. If people want to deal with lower quality video, that should be a choice they get to select, not have T-Mobile select it for them. We like opt-in services, John, not opt-out. In his argument, he tosses out the idea that people may not have known to turn it on and experience the benefit. Same goes the other way, my friend. People could go for months with throttled video that they didn’t ask for, before realizing that there still is a world with HD quality.
Second, T-Mobile needs to stop throttling services that are not official partners of Binge On. Remember YouTube throwing that fit a couple of weeks ago, about T-Mobile throttling their video quality without their permission? Yeah, T-Mobile shouldn’t be doing that. T-Mobile shouldn’t be doing that to anyone unless they give them permission to. You know why? Because it hurts the experience on those services and the first place customers will turn to bitch about it, is the apps themselves, not T-Mobile.
Again, the goal of trying to save some data for people by giving them the option to degrade (or throttle) the quality of video isn’t the worst idea I’ve ever heard. But for Binge On to get out of headlines, it needs some pretty serious tweaks. How about, giving us the ability to turn it on or off for individual services? How about not even giving the option to unlimited users who don’t need it? How about, not burying the switch for it in a My Profile setting, a place that makes absolutely no sense for it to be? In other words, how about making it easier to turn off or on? How about, just admitting that your shit isn’t perfect, John, and that you will make it right? It might go a long way.