YouTube, the video-sharing business unit of Alphabet, raised concerns that the “Binge On” service of T-Mobile is reducing the video quality for users and interfering video traffic.
T-Mobile’s Binge On service offers free video streams for HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, Sling TV, Starz subscribers without using their high-speed data. The service does not include YouTube, which accounts 20% of the video traffic on wireless devices in North America based on data from Sandvine.
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YouTube claims T-Mobile is downgrading the quality of videos
YouTube claimed that T-Mobile is downgrading the quality of videos that are not part of its Binge On program. “Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent, according to a spokesman for YouTube as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
T-Mobile explained that YouTube was excluded from the Binge On service because of a technical problem, and needs to work with YouTube to resolve it. The wireless carriers said the software detecting streaming videos to exclude from data limits cannot identify all incoming YouTube videos.
T-Mobile said its customers love free video streaming
T-Mobile released a statement regarding its Binge On service but did not address the concerns raised by YouTube. According to the wireless carrier, its customers “love having a free streaming video that never hits their data bucket.” The company added that customers have complete control of their video streaming, and they like the quality of their video experience.
Aside from YouTube, the Internet Association claimed that T-Mobile “appears to be involved in throttling video traffic across all data plans, regardless of network congestion” with its new service.
FCC sends letter to AT&T, Comcast, and T-Mobile
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent letters to AT&T, Comcast, and T-Mobile requesting more information regarding its new service offerings. The letter indicated that there were concerns regarding the new practices of the companies, but clarified that the inquiry was not a formal investigation.
The letter of Roger C. Sherman, Chief of Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the FCC, to T-Mobile reads;
“As you may be aware, concerns have been expressed about the Binge On program. For example, some have argued that the technical requirements of the Binge On program may harm innovation by “making certain video apps more attractive than others.” Others have asserted that the reduction of video quality “has harmed some users.” On the other hand, T-Mobile argues that Binge On “is not a network neutrality problem.”
We want to ensure that we have all the facts to understand how this service relates to the Commission’s goal of maintaining a free and open Internet while incentivizing investment and innovation from all sources.”