T-Mobile and EFF in war of words over net neutrality in US

8 Jan 2016

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has called “bulls**t” on claims that the T-Mobile service is throttling all videos on its network

T-Mobile’s colourful CEO John Legere has called “bulls**t” on claims that the US telecoms giant’s Binge On service is throttling all videos on its network.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has claimed that T-Mobile’s Binge On service, which promised users high-speed, high-quality video that won’t exceed their data cap, is throttling all video, not just zero-rated content.

The service exempts costs of data transmitted by two dozen video services, including Netflix and Hulu, and cuts the cost of streaming video to consumers.

However, the EFF claims T-Mobile botched the rollout and throttled all video.

EFF testing claims to have discovered that T-Mobile’s claims of using “video optimisation technology” across its network were baseless as video content isn’t altered in any way.

If anything, the EFF claims the T-Mobile service flies in the face of net neutrality rules set out the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded to the criticism by posting a video with a tirade against the EFF’s claims.

“There are people out there saying we’re ‘throttling.’ That’s a game of semantics and it’s bulls**t! That’s not what we’re doing. Really! What throttling is is slowing down data and removing customer control. Let me be clear. Binge On is [doing] neither of those things.”

Apples and oranges

EFF responded by calling on Legere to set the record straight.

“T-Mobile seems to be arguing that downgrading video quality is not actually throttling, but we disagree. ‘Throttling’ means that when a video stream hits T-Mobile’s network, its bandwidth is capped. If the video provider’s server has the capability to adapt the quality of the video, then the server can do that – but it is the video provider that is using ‘adaptive video technology’, not T-Mobile. In other words, T-Mobile just constrains the bandwidth, and it’s up to video providers to make sure their videos stream smoothly.

“This isn’t semantics – it’s apples and oranges.

“If T-Mobile wanted to give its customers more choice, it would have made Binge On opt-in, not opt-out. And if Binge On was really about helping customers stretch their data, then T-Mobile wouldn’t have automatically enabled Binge On for customers with unlimited data. They would also zero-rate all videos they throttle, not just the videos of providers who have enrolled,” the EFF said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years