According to the a story written by the Wall Street Journal, T-Mobile might be violating net-neutrality by degrading YouTube videos in its Binge On program.
T-Mobile’s Binge On program offers video streaming free to users who are on the 3GB plan, where the quality of streaming videos is downgraded to 480p, which is the quality of DVD.
Usually, HD quality is preferred by most consumers, as content provider services specifically market for higher quality. But the trade-off here works in reverse where the advantage is the downgrade, as the CEO and T-Mobile president John Legere believes that 480p is good enough for consumers as it doesn’t bog down their lines for wireless service.
However, YouTube considers this to be toggling of their streaming services and those of other video companies, and in a way, a level of favoritism they claim is against the rules of Net Neutrality.
After the release of the article, at least one user behind the support of Net Neutrality went to Twitter.
— Pk (@PhilKaskela) December 23, 2015
In the WSJ article, one of the issues revealed between YouTube and T-Mobile is one of collaboration, as the video service has not willingly or entirely submitted to the program.
The Washington Post also writes that YouTube is the first service to react to T-Mobile’s program, which they claim might cause other content providers to take notice, as the FCC is already looking into the program.
But T-Mobile defended the program by saying that they’re not only working within the guidelines of the FCC enforced regulation, but that consumers also have the option to turn the Binge On feature, off.
Prior to the start of the program, T-Mobile’s CEO posted a live streaming video where he pointed out the possibility that some might consider his service to be in violation of Net Neutrality rules.
“This is not a net neutrality problem, okay, this is similar to music freedom… it’s free! The providers don’t pay, the customers don’t pay. You can shut it off, it’s complete customer choice!”
To simplify what Net Neutrality means, here is a video of significant events over the last year, to show that companies are still lobbying to fight the FCC law in the courts.
Back in November, PC World published an article about T-Mobile’s new service to explain which services would be included in the program as well as why YouTube would be taking action.
In the video announcing the program, John Legere says that all content providers would be able to join at no charge provided that they fall under certain technical requirements. The article by PC World claims that the requirements might concern the issues T-Mobile has with regard to the secure HTTPS format, as the mobile company claims they have to mark those videos in order for them to show in their Binge On service.
This would explain why some content isn’t seen.
When the user turns the Binge On feature off, they can go back to watching HD quality videos, which still ends up biting into their data plan, and the company does charge more for that access. A user’s phone is still able to detect a WIFI connection, though, and the user can stream HD quality content with the binge feature still disabled.
T-Mobile has made no secret of the company’s effort to fiercely compete with other service providers, where features like Binge On would reinvent the way users stream content. As mentioned, it does so by turning the stream around to lower quality from higher quality.
It should also be noted that YouTube’s owners have signed on with Net Neutrality advocacy groups, which could be the reason why they were the first company of their kind to publicly take notice.