T-Mobile is ‘optimizing’ not throttling YouTube videos

by: Robert TriggsDecember 30, 2015

t-mobile binge onAbout a week ago you may recall that YouTube and a small number of other online video providers were complaining about T-Mobile’s Binge On service, which allows customers to stream videos from certain services without eating into their data plan. The complaint goes that T-Mobile is also reducing the quality of videos from providers outside of the platform, such as YouTube, without direct consumer consent.

T-Mobile has now officially responded to the complaint, stating that it thinks throttling data is a misleading term. Instead the company has simply “optimized” the content for mobile, apparently.

“Using the term “throttle” is misleading … We aren’t slowing down YouTube or any other site. In fact, because video is optimized for mobile devices, streaming from these sites should be just as fast, if not faster than before. A better phrase is “mobile optimized” or a less flattering “downgraded” is also accurate.” – T-Mobile representative

Perhaps T-Mobile has a technical point to make that it is not throttling access speeds to these video platforms. However, automatically turning down the quality of content does not really seem much different from a user’s point of view. The carrier appears to be choosing its wording quite carefully in order to avoid running up against the FCC’s rules regarding web traffic discrimination.

“Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent,”– YouTube spokesman

Furthermore, T-Mobile seems to have backtracked on its earlier comments about a “technical problem” related to YouTube videos. The carrier now doesn’t seem to deny that it is blanket applying its data compression techniques to videos outside of its Binge On program. Although consumers have the option to opt in and out through their account settings, this situation will likely continue to infuriate content providers who declined to partner up with T-Mobile.

The FCC has already separately sent out letters to a range of carriers in order to collect information about their latest plans and it wouldn’t be surprising to see affected companies take their complaints further in the New Year.

  • As a confessed YouTube addict and tmo user I like it. Do I really need 1440p on a 5inch screen? Hell no. 480 is ok though I would prefer 720p. It optional, you can switch it off if you choose to. I am with tmo on this one.

    • Nibbler

      you didnt read. either way youre screwed to just 480p.

      • No your not screwed to 480p! if you disable binge on it will stream at up to max res. I do wish it offered more of a fine grained control to select quality from specific sites. Some people just to be mad about something.

        • Nibbler

          no dude youre screwed to 480p

          • Nope your wrong my son’s phone is opted out of binge on and pulls YouTube at at full 1080p on his nexus 5.

          • Nibbler

            gets glasses. dude its 480p.

  • Dylan J. Grace

    Why can’t it just come down to this, T-Mobile will not count YouTube videos toward your Data Cap as long as you streaming it in 480p or lower. If you watch it in 720p or higher, then it uses your Data. I’d be more than okay with it, I’d even downgrade my plan to save money and watch everything in 480p on YouTube on the go.

    • Because Youtube didn’t want to partner with TMo on the Binge on Program. I wish they had. I think it is a great Idea. I completely agree with you. 480p works for me I would prefer that the res they set was 720p but even on my QHD V10 480p looks fine compared to the shit quality of most videos anyways.

  • Aaron

    “The carrier now doesn’t seem to deny that it is blanket applying its data compression techniques to videos outside of its Binge On program.”

    haha. liars. why even have an opt out option if it doesn’t really work.

    if folks want to save money, let them do it on their own terms, tmobile. not everyone wants to you do decide whether they see 480p on their QHD flagship device. i sure don’t.

    in before, “oh tmobile just can’t do anything right! they are trying to save you money!” bs.

    • Joel Bonilla

      I was able to opt out no problem… Took a few hours beofre i noticed my video quality improve but it works….with binge On i forced a higher quality change to my videos on youtube and they wouldn’t load up & with Binge OFf i hit 1080P60FPS Noproblem

  • Nibbler

    that 480p on that 2k/4k screen. dead. never liked tmobile cause of thier cell signal strength and coverage. att all the way :)

    • Aaron

      i agree.

      the problem here is that tmobile isn’t giving the customer the choice. there is no “opt out” when it comes to youtube throttling. people aren’t understanding that selecting opt out does not stop the throttling. so it isn’t as simple as “clicking an extra button”. read, people.

      being the consumer is about having choice, right? yet tmobile thinks that it should decide for its customers.

      • Nibbler

        no i understand the fact about what tmobile is doing. i just hate that we have 2k/4k screens and have to watch 480p quality videos on it no matter what with tombile.

        problem is tmobile makes all these promises “unlimited streaming music, unlimited data, unlimited this and that” and yet they cant maintain that “unlimited” at the same high speed quality as lets say Verizon or ATT over a long period of time. so their solution is throttling.

      • Actually opting out does stop the throttling. all of it it takes a couple hours to a day to update across their network but my son opted out and I just checked on his phone you tube it pulls at 1080p. TMo’s only failure is in making it an opt out not an opt in. bu that is SOP for most things these days.

      • There’s is absolutely opt-out, works fine, though I feel guilty using it.

  • Weneklek

    So I think we’ve come to a point in society when clicking an extra button is dastardly inconvenient but we will go online to write a thousand words complaining about it.

    Also, I’m with tmo that “throttling” is very different from “optimizing.”

    “However, automatically turning down the quality of content does not really seem much different from a user’s point of view.” Don’t blanket-view consumers with this please. For all we know it’s beneficial to more people than to those that can’t do those few extra clicks.

  • seattle tech

    T-mobile has joined the dark side with att and verizon

  • Chester

    I call BS on T-Mobile, as much as I love what they’ve done with the Un-Carrier marketing up to now. I was watching some videos in the default “optimized” state on my phone. When I switched the feed to something higher (HD), I was greeted with infinite buffering spinners. I’ve since turned off Binge On.

    480p is NOT ok on screens where it’s not the native screen resolution – these days that means it’s an upscale factor of 3x or more… It’s only ok if you like staring at moving blobs.

    • Scott Ricketts

      It’s a matter of preference and not being told they’re doing it. I’ve got major issues with what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. You want the full HD content, I don’t. We shouldn’t have the choice made for us.

  • Scott Ricketts

    Agreed. It’s deciding to do it for all video and not telling us. My cheapo tablet only has a 2GB plan, so downgrading to 480p helps me and I don’t mind. Doing it without telling me? That’s not cool.

  • Using the term optimizing is misleading they are throttling people I have 3 lines with T-Mobile all grandfather unlimited data why would I want bing on turned on as default. They’re shady and this bullsh of a free movie if you leave it on it’s even more insulting I called them and made them turn it off on all 3 lines. Lucky I have verizon unlimited data for my personal use and don’t have to worry about that.

  • charlie Jason

    Look! Total bs being spilled out of that guy’s mouth!

  • I’m a T-Mobile customer and I think Binge On is really smart. Many devices and most eyes can’t benefit from HD video on small screens, and those who want it can always opt out. Ultimately this improves the network for everyone and saves consumers data. It’s a win/win.