YouTube says T-Mobile’s net neutrality-bending Binge On scheme throttles its videos

T-Mobile YouTube Video Traffic ThrottlingImage Source: Asa Mathat | Re/code

Even though T-Mobile’s Binge On program is the least objectionable of all carrier plans I’ve seen to exempt certain content from its own data caps, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have problems. In fact, I’m on the record as saying Binge On could very well blow up in T-Mobile’s face and now we’re seeing the first evidence that Binge On may be more of a hassle than the “Un-carrier” bargained for.

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that YouTube has accused T-Mobile of intentionally throttling its data traffic even though YouTube isn’t yet part of T-Mobile’s Binge On program. Video streaming services that sign up for Binge On agree to have their videos’ resolutions set at 480p in exchange for not having their streams count against users’ monthly data limits. YouTube says its own videos are being throttled down to lower resolutions even though it never signed on with T-Mobile’s program.

“Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent,” a YouTube spokesperson told WSJ.

T-Mobile was fairly evasive in response to YouTube’s accusations and would only say that its customers “love having free streaming video that never hits their data bucket” and like “both the quality of their video experience and the complete control they have.”

Nonetheless, this does show the dangers of a carrier inserting itself between consumers and the online content they want to watch. The beauty of a network that is simply a series of “dumb pipes” is that it will give you the content that you request without prioritizing it or any other content — it’s a simple transaction of requesting and receiving.

T-Mobile, however, has added a needless lair of complexity to this simple system that has served the Internet so well for so long. It’s making it so that video streaming services will feel compelled to go through Binge On if they want their customers to be able to watch their content without fear of exceeding monthly limits. And now that it seems T-Mobile is extending its Binge On video quality standards to services that haven’t even signed on for the program, it’s opening up a whole new can of worms.

And this is generally the problem I have with the way all ISPs do business: The way the Internet has worked for decades is not broken, yet they keep trying to fix it for their own benefit.

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