A recent controversy involving YouTube and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have unravelled the hidden consequences of T-Mobile’s Binge On program. What originally looked like one of the most amazing offers a carrier has made to its clients since Sprint’s Unlimited Data Plan a few years ago turns out to have some fairly transparent ramifications. Said ramifications did not only affect the clients of the program, but apparently struck a chord with video streaming website YouTube.
Internet data traffic has been a market-winning point for carriers so as a result, T-Mobile was just one of many who attempted to throw an astounding offer out there in order to win over customers. Introduced in T-Mobile’s list of programs sometime in November last year, the Binge On offer allowed its users to relish in unlimited video streaming on certain video streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Hulu without that counting up to their monthly data plan.
This came as an addition to compliment the other free streaming program, namely Music Freedom, that worked the exact same way but with music. As long as you would stream your tunes from Apple Music, Google Music, Spotify or Pandora, you would not use any traffic from your regular data plan.
So where did it all go wrong enough to upset the waters down at YouTube headquarters? Apparently, the free streaming is not as free as it seems. In order to make up for the freedom of making use of all of these services for free, T-Mobile seems to have been throttling data usage from other perspective. More explicitly, the videos themselves. The quality was downgraded from their maximum 1080p to 480p resolution; this may not even phase most of the users as watching videos on your smartphone’s screen can only get so good, regardless of your display’s size.
However, on a larger scale, T-Mobile is being accused of much more serious implications – net neutrality being one of them. Net neutrality is a principle that supports unlimited access to all content and applications regardless of where they originate from and suggests to neither favor or block any of them. T-Mobile’s defense against the statement was to stand by their position, claiming that the Binge On program does not rely on throttling other services, but instead on optimizing data usage for their customers.
In one sense, anyone could argue that the strategy of offering free streaming at the cost of some quality cannot be, under any circumstance, be considered discrimination; even more so one that is bannable by the rules of the net neutrality. Its debatable nature even brought up other examples of how the Net neutrality is being defied by a number of other companies and services.
The discussion was ultimately left hanging after concluding that as long as the throttling is a result of physical limitations of T-Mobiles infrastructure to deliver free 1080p video streaming, it would not be considered a violation of the net neutrality. However, if the company withholds from using it, despite being capable to do so, it could face repercussions in the future.
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