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.About a week ago you may recall that
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.