By Paul Michaels
January 16, 2016
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On Monday, digital civil liberties activist organization, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), published a report accusing T-Mobile of using Binge On to throttle the quality of all video content delivered via its network.
In late November, T-Mobile announced a new video optimization program, dubbed “Binge On”.
Late a year ago, T-Mobile launched a seemingly miraculous offer called Binge On that allows you to stream unlimited quantities of video using cellular data, for free. Bottom line, if you have Binge On enabled, your data gets throttled, especially if it’s a video.
Jeremy Gillula, the staff technologist at the EFF who wrote the report, said the group wouldn’t object to the program if T-Mobile made it clear that all video was being throttled and if customers could “opt in” rather than have it automatically turned it on by the carrier.
“In other words, our results show that T-Mobile is throttling video streams, plain and simple”. Once again, T-Mobile just confirmed that they “don’t do any actual optimization of video streams other than reducing the bandwidth allocated to them”.
This is contrary to T-Mobile’s initial response that they are just downgrading or mobile optimizing the videos-NOT data throttling. This suggested that T-Mobile either required partners to provide only 480p streams to Binge On customers, or that T-Mobile itself would act as a proxy, translating higher-quality streams into 480p. Next week, the FCC plans to have a meeting with T-Mobile and other carriers to discuss this very issue. Indeed, the EFF agrees that one option for T-Mobile would be to stop throttling the video of providers that don’t participate in Binge On.
“It also means that videos are being throttled even if they’re being watched or downloaded to another device via a tethered connection”.
T-Mobile representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Tests showed when Binge On was enabled, all video streams and downloads degraded to 1.5 Mbps.
It added that if a video was more than 480 pixels resolution – and the server sending it did not have a way to adapt the bit rate – the result was “stuttering and uneven streaming”. After conducting extensive research, the organization has declared that the video service throttles video from all sources instead of “optimizing” it as advertised.
As a result, the EFF says that T-mobile is violating the FCC’s Open Internet Order that says that ISPs “shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service… subject to reasonable network management”.