Does T-Mobile Binge On Violate Net Neutrality?

T-Mobile is in the hot seat again over its Binge On service and whether or not it violates the FCC rules of net neutrality. New allegations suggest that streaming services that are not part of the Binge On offering experience degraded bandwidth while Binge On is activated. A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed the practice, but T-Mobile CEO John Legere posted a contentious video calling the argument semantic and asserting that T-Mobile is not throttling content.

For those who don’t know, Binge On is a T-Mobile service that allows T-Mobile customers to stream unlimited amounts of content from participating providers like Netflix NFLX -2.84% and Hulu without having that data count against the data plan cap. Streaming content from non-participating providers, such as YouTube, on the other hand, still counts against the allotted data.

As soon as T-Mobile announced the Binge On service it came under fire. Net neutrality proponents scrutinized the offering and questioned whether the zero rating scheme of allowing content from certain providers to be viewed for free in any way violates the principles of net neutrality. At face value it seems like it definitely skirts the line—even if it doesn’t cross it. It seems like something that adheres to the letter of the net neutrality rules, while possibly violating those rules in spirit. The FCC chimed in, though, and gave it an initial seal of approval, so to speak.

As long as all of the streaming video traffic is actually delivered at the same speeds and there is no preferential treatment given to Binge On partners, I agree that it doesn’t violate the principles of net neutrality. However, it seems that might not be the case. The EFF has raised concerns that services that are not part of Binge On are, in fact, throttled.

 According to Wired, a T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed that customers who have the Binge On service activated will experience degraded download speeds when streaming content from services that are not part of Binge On. The article also claims that T-Mobile confirmed, “They’ll also experience slower speeds when trying to download video files for offline use from websites that do not participate in Binge On, at least until the customer deactivates the service.”

That certainly sounds like Binge On partners are getting preferential treatment and those services that are not part of Binge On are being throttled. If so, that is a clear violation of the FCC net neutrality rules.

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Camilla Wood

UK based Legal Aid Lawyer

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