T-Mobile Responds to EFF Claims about Throttling

by Matt Klassen on January 13, 2016

legere-hands-2“Who the f*** are you EFF, why are you stirring up so much trouble, and who pays you?” T-Mobile CEO John Legere asked in a controversial Twitter rant regarding the recent claims made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that the carrier was throttling all video content on its network through its optimization process.

According to Legere, not only has his company’s new Binge On service increased viewership for its partner sites, but video viewership has increased among those on T-Mobile’s network who are not participants in the Binge On program, because again all video is optimized to 480p for viewing on mobile devices.

While the loquacious and often profane Legere did later back off somewhat from his comments, apologizing to the EFF and its supporters in a blog post, the rant comes as T-Mobile attempts to deflect criticism that its paradigm altering zero-rated video streaming service is not as revolutionary as it seems, and a great deal more illegal than Legere is letting on.

I will admit at first blush I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, particularly as the likes of AT&T, Google and others began lodging complaints against T-Mobile, claiming that it was unjustifiably throttling video across its network, even for those not participating in the company’s Binge On promotion. For its part, T-Mobile seemed to finally have done something worthy of its Un-Carrier moniker. But I’ll admit that the more information that comes to light, the more fishy things seem to be, particularly over T-Mobile’s management of video data and its supposed claims regarding network optimization.

As we saw earlier this week, according to the report from the EFF, who claims to have tested T-Mobile’s network, the only optimization or alterations that T-Mobile makes to any given video feed is to limit its bandwidth, slowing all video streams to 1.5Mbps. This sort of throttling is applied to all videos, for all users, regardless of the ability of their phones to handle faster data speeds or user participation in the Binge On program itself.

The problem that arises, of course, is not that such zero-rated services are unhelpful or unwanted, but that when applied to consumers in a way not related to network traffic or a customer’s data plan, it stands in violation of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet regulations.

“Reducing data charges for entire classes of applications can be legitimate and benefit consumers, so long as clear notice and choice is provided to service providers and consumers,” noted Michael Beckerman, CEO of The Internet Association. “However, a reasonably designed zero-rating program does not include the throttling of traffic for services or consumers that do not participate.”

Again, for his part Legere has maintained that his company does not throttle video feeds, and that consumers appreciate the fact that videos now stream faster and, of course, don’t count against their data caps. But here’s the thing, the truth about T-Mobile’s optimization processes will come to light, and the EFF will either be proven right or wrong. Should the EFF be proven right, well John Legere will definitely be left with egg on his face, although for a man who shoots from the hip, says what he means, and often fails to filter himself, there’s really nothing new about that either.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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