When we first heard about Binge On back in November, there wasn’t much to hate about the idea of offering T-Mobile customers free, unmetered video streaming on services such as YouTube and Hulu. However, things aren’t looking so hot now after the EFF accused the Uncarrier of throttling data and violating Net neutrality rules. T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere took to YouTube and Twitter to respond to the EFF and other Binge On critics.
On the T-Mobile website, Legere posted earlier today to clarify some misunderstandings about the T-Mobile service. What Legere’s opponents, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, call “throttling,” he calls “optimization” in a war over semantics. Analogous to the Economy Mode on a car, Legere describes Binge On as a way to save data by being more efficient with your data usage, or getting zero-rated data when watching on certain websites, such as Netflix and Hulu.
“Mobile customers don’t want or need full, heavy, giant video data files,” noted Legere in the video, referring to anything higher than the 480p DVD quality a video typically streams in when a customer uses Binge On. Legere went on to claim that those calling Binge On “throttling,” such as the Electronics Frontier Foundation and Google, are companies just trying to make T-Mobile look bad in the ongoing discussion over Net neutrality.
Legere notes Binge On offers the quality you get from watching a DVD, except most of the content we watch online isn’t DVD quality, and that’s where the EFF has a problem. While many streaming services, such as Netflix and YouTube, can offer a lower, DVD quality 480p bitrate, T-Mobile won’t accommodate you if a particular streaming service lacks that option. All T-Mobile does is lower the speed of your connection when using Binge On to encourage a lower bitrate. T-Mobile notes that it does this to all video connections, even those that are not zero-rated websites. This means you’ll experience frame stuttering and buffering issues when playing back video in higher bitrates or from providers who can’t offer a 480p connection.
This is why the EFF reaffirms its belief that T-Mobile is throttling, not optimizing. All T-Mobile does with Binge On is control the speed of your connection. Everything else depends on you and the video provider. When the phones we all own include 720p, 1080p, and even 2K resolution displays, viewing 480p video on that same screen involves stretching the video across two or three times as many pixels, causing that blurry effect we know all too well.
T-Mobile’s response didn’t provide much information about how Binge On works, but they continue to claim it’s a good service that’s helping customers, and that it’s optional too. Customers can go into their account settings and disable Binge On if they’re unhappy with how it impacts their video quality. Legere also noted that T-Mobile customers are watching 12 percent more videos, and that a top streaming service saw 66 percent increased viewership after launching with Binge On.