T-Mobile recently launched its “Binge On” unlimited video streaming promotion, which allows customers to stream video content from a number of popular services without eating into their data allowance. The trade-off is that T-Mobile limits the quality of videos that users can stream from services within the program to save on bandwidth. However, YouTube and other companies are now complaining that video quality is being lowered outside of the program as well.
Unlike services from Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go, and others, YouTube videos aren’t part of T-Mobile’s Binge One program and therefore still count towards data consumed. However, users are still apparently seeing video quality reduced by default. The only way that customers can restore full quality videos appears to be to shut off Binge On through their account settings.
“Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent,”– YouTube spokesman
“T-Mobile’s new ‘streaming optimization’ program appears to involve throttling of all video traffic, across all data plans, regardless of network congestion,” – Internet Association
This could raise a new issue for federal regulators, as the Federal Communications Commission’s net-neutrality rules are designed to prevent internet providers from offering different tiers of service to different websites. Some consumer advocate groups are worried that data throttling could be an attempt to circumvent these rules, but T-Mobile argues that its program is in line with the regulations.
T-Mobile has not officially commented on the case, but CEO John Legere reiterated that customers can turn the throttling feature on and off at will. In addition, the FCC has recently sent letters out to T-Mobile, Comcast and AT&T to gather additional information about their latest services. There isn’t a formal investigation underway, yet, but this probably isn’t the last we will hear about mobile data throttling.