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T-Mobile's Binge On Violates Net Neutrality, Says Stanford Report (tmonews.com) 218

An anonymous reader writes: The debate over whether or not Binge On violates Net Neutrality has been raging ever since the service was announced in November. The latest party to weigh in is Barbara van Schewick, law professor at Stanford University.

In a new report published today — and filed to the FCC, as well — van Schewick says that Binge on "violates key net neutrality principles" and "is likely to violate the FCC's general conduct rule." She goes on to make several arguments against Binge On, saying that services in Binge On distorts competition because they're zero-rated and because video creators are more likely to use those providers for their content, as the zero-rated content is more attractive to consumers.

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T-Mobile's Binge On Violates Net Neutrality, Says Stanford Report

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  • Wha? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @04:22PM (#51398537) Homepage
    So, T-mobile puts a program in place that benefits its customers by keeping streaming content off the meters, and this is a problem? Who was net neutrality supposed to benefit again?
    • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by suutar ( 1860506 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @04:26PM (#51398577)

      Some streaming content. Not all (though it will throttle all. Yeah, slowed down and still counts against data). not really "neutral".

      • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @04:29PM (#51398603) Homepage
        So it would be better if they metered everything?
        • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 29, 2016 @04:40PM (#51398681)

          Better? No.
          Neutral? Yes.

          That's the point of net neutrality, show no favoritism. For good or ill.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It would be fine if they didn't slow down (throttle) the streams on non-participating content providers.

        • It would be better if they lowered the cost per gigabyte of metered data to something reasonable, so you can use your phone for something other than watching Netflix and checking your email.

          • T-Mobile doesn't charge per gigabyte for metered data, they give you unlimited 2g speeds and an LTE allotment, or unlimited LTE.
        • Re:Wha? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @04:55PM (#51398807)

          It would be better if they were tampering with the video streaming market by favoring one group over another. That's the point of net neutrality, we don't want the phone and cable companies deciding the winners and losers in the video streaming market.

          I doesn't matter if this is good for some consumers, it's bad for the market. Your support only means you are willing to sell out future use of the network for an immediate short term benefit.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ichthus ( 72442 )
            No, I believe a byte is a byte, no matter where it comes from, and should be charged as such. But, I recognize the necessity to meter a limited resource like wireless bandwidth. This effort by T-Mobile is not a way for choosing winners and losers -- it's a way of giving their customers added benefit of not having to limit their binge watching (I torrent, so this doesn't even affect me, anyway) during each month.
            • "This effort by T-Mobile is not a way for choosing winners and losers"

              It explcitly is chosing, because *only some providers* get to be zero rated and it is T-mobile that decides.

              • Any provider is free to join the program, T-Mobile doesn't decide.

              • by imgod2u ( 812837 )

                Technically correct (admittedly the best kind) but the spirit of net neutrality isn't violated in the way T-Mobile does this. T-Mobile lets any streaming service opt for this and gauges which services to add based on demand of its consumer base. So it would seem that whether or not Binge On violates net neutrality would depend on how well they honor this principle. I could see the argument that this *allows* T-Mobile to pick winners and losers but so long as they're transparent about how they pick services,

                • T-Mobile lets any streaming service opt for this and gauges which services to add based on demand of its consumer base.

                  Technically incorrect (admittedly the worst kind). T-Mobile lets any streaming service opt in for this and gauges which services to reach out to based on demand of its customer base.

                  You don't have to wait for T-Mobile to come to you, it's a form and a few phone calls and yes, you can register even your personal video collection as a streaming service (and your music collection for their zero-rated music streaming offering, as well).

              • What does zero rated mean.

            • Re:Wha? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @05:55PM (#51399211) Homepage

              The customers don't benefit when the entire industry is harmed. Imagine Comcast and Time Warner metering Netflix to 1 GB/month while letting you use their own video services without metering. Netflix would basically cease to exist, and take their programming along with them.

              This is why net neutrality as a concept exists - so that the delivery companies don't get to decide which content providers are allowed to exist.

        • Well, they give themselves an unfair advantage against their competitors, yes ... so if they're going to meter someone else's traffic, they need to meter their own ... or it becomes "nice connection, shame if something happened to it".

          If you want net neutrality, not being able to tilt the playing field in your favor is part of that. If you don't want net neutrality, they can just decide to block your Netflix access.

          It really is two sides of the same coin, because it prevents them making their service cheap

        • It would be more neutral. You can be against net neutrality if you want to. Just admit it.

      • Not slowed down, which would cause stuttering. It's streamed at a lower bitrate to reduce the user's cost from non-free streaming data. This is under the user's control, not T-Mobile's. You can choose to potentially burn up your data allowance by streaming at 1080p if you want.

        I do think they failed to do enough to inform the users of their new service. I only learned of this when I logged into t-Mobile to pay my bill, and a note on the new opt-out data-saving feature popped up.

        The free from some
      • Some streaming content. Not all (though it will throttle all. Yeah, slowed down and still counts against data). not really "neutral".

        They should offer Binge On content at lower resolution as they do now, all the rest without the resolution changed but metered with the option to run Binge On content on the same terms. Then there should be no issue about net neutrality.

    • I have made this case from the beginning. It would seem that going above and beyond what the customer pays for is just as taboo as not delivering what was paid for. They don't want any more or less.

      • " It would seem that going above and beyond what the customer pays for is just as taboo as not delivering what was paid for."

        Those are not actually different situations. The claimed baseline can be moved around arbitrarily, but the relative performance is identical and the price charged is unaffected..

        • But they can be completely different situations which is the point. Even the argument that if a customer subscribes to a 3 meg budget connection and Netflix gets delivered at 6 meg while nothing else is slowed below 3m, it would be evil. If i wanted to set up a cable like access company and only allow 1 meg http but all streaming video is as fast as it can be served, it is evil because you couldn't torrent at unlimited speeds even though the service is clearly marketed as something other than internet servi

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well, I'm convinced people have forgotten what it was like in the pre-iPhone days, when cell phone companies set themselves up as gatekeepers. You'd have a phone with a camera, but often you couldn't get the pictures off it without purchasing a monthly "picture mail" service. You could look up news and information, but only on the phone company's crappy and expensive WAP information service.

      This represents the state to which the phone companies would like to return: where they can monetize the things you

      • This is a slippery slope argument. When and if a carrier offers a Binge On-like program but exclusively applying to their preferred partners than it will be a terrible violation of net neutrality and an unacceptable situation. As long as Bing On is freely offered to any video provider who would like to take advantage of it than we have nothing like the situation you are concerned about.

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          It's only a slippery slope if you don't show a reason for the particular consequences you anticipate. Otherwise you can't argue about consequences at all.

          • Nope, it's a slippery slope because you are claiming your worst case situation is an inevitable result. If it's not inevitable, and in fact T-Mobile is happy with the plan as it is than it's nonsense to criticise the plan on the grounds of what you fear it could become.

            • by hey! ( 33014 )

              it's nonsense to criticise the plan on the grounds of what you fear it could become.

              Not if my fear is well-founded. I speak as someone who's worked for many years with telecom companies as a developer/business partner, and I can tell you they hate being in the commodity bandwidth business and they're always looking for a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The Binge On program is such an attempt, but it's not a sustainable differentiation because anyone can copy it. So what's the next logical step?

              Is it inevitable that phone companies who do this will attempt to nego

              • The "Binge On" program is considered by many people to be a overall good one for everyone involved, unlike the future you describe. Obviously you think your fears are well-founded but that is still very much a matter of your opinion. Feel free to say "I told you so" when and if your fears come true.

                • by hey! ( 33014 )

                  Never said it wasn't my opinion, but practically any assertion about the future has to be regarded as an opinion. But I think it's a reasonable opinion, because it's based on only three assumptions (1) if the binge on program is successful, then other companies will offer same deal; (2) that those companies will subsequently try to differentiate their offerings in a way their competitors can't copy; (3) Once they have successfully differentiated their offerings they will structure those offerings in the

                • by grmoc ( 57943 )

                  This is amusing.

                  Carrier: We're going to raise the rates for everyone (someone has to pay for the bandwidth, and this always ends up coming from the consumer), but then we're going to give you insecure, lower-quality video for "free". .... and, apparently, people cheer.

                  They shouldn't be happy with this. They're paying more for worse service, and letting the carrier dictate the terms of their user experience instead of the market.

    • Who was net neutrality supposed to benefit again?

      The government - the FCC gets to regulate the Internet. Users are screwed, just as we knew would happen from when this was first proposed.

  • From TFA:

    van Schewick second argument is that Binge On limits user choice because it allows customers to watch an unlimited amount of some services but a limited amount of others. She uses Amazon Prime as an example of a provider that would be limited with Binge On, but that service was added to the free streaming portion of Binge On yesterday.

    [emphasis added]

    • The user always had a limited about of data they could use - all binge on does is EXPAND USER CHOICE by letting some things not count against the data cap.

      If you eliminate Binge On and all you have left is the same exact status for watching Amazon Prime that you had with the Binge On service, then Binge On did NOT IMPACT user choice.

      In fact Binge On ALSO expands user choice from the sense that now you are not consuming data through Netflix any longer so you have more to use with Binge On....

      I absolutely des

      • by mechtech256 ( 2617089 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @04:45PM (#51398715)

        It's not about users, it's about the massive transfer of control to the carriers with net neutrality violating programs like this. All content providers now have to conform to Tmobile's throttling rules in order to qualify for special status, and these rules are subject to change at Tmobile's whim.

        In addition, video services NOT INCLUDED IN BINGE-ON are also being throttled while other types of traffic are not throttled. This is a textbook violation of net neutrality.

        It's about control. Users and content creators should have control of the internet, and carriers should be blind carriers of data. That's the entire point of net neutrality.

        • In addition, video services NOT INCLUDED IN BINGE-ON are also being throttled

          This is at the users request (the user enables binge on and the throttling setting).

          Are you really saying that I as a network user have no right to request a service throttle data for me to a lower amount? Really?

          So network neutrality then was never about helping users, but placating control nazis like yourself because someone somewhere might be getting a deal you are not getting. Everyone else must suffer because you cannot be o

          • In addition, video services NOT INCLUDED IN BINGE-ON are also being throttled

            This is at the users request (the user enables binge on and the throttling setting).

            To quote an EFF article [eff.org]:

            T-Mobile's Binge On service could have been great. Giving customers a choice about how to use their data so that they can stream more video without hitting their data cap is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, T-Mobile botched the roll out. Without asking, they made it the default for all of their customers.

            I also found a The Verge article [theverge.com] that confirms that throttling goes away once Binge On is disabled:

            T-Mobile was throttling all video traffic over its network, including video downloads, for all customers who had not disabled the Binge On feature that the company automatically enabled for everyone in November.

            All in all, I think this is a mountain out of a molehill. The biggest problem was how T-Mobile rolled it out. If they would have made it opt-in at roll out instead of opt-out, the issue would be much more clear, and I don't think it would have become a net neutrality matter.

            I'm not sure if it's a bugbear that non-Binge On videos get throttled when Binge On is active. I could go eithe

            • Actually, what I really want to know is why T-Mobile doesn't just apologize and disable it for everybody. Problem solved imho.

              They already pissed off the people who don't want Bing On enabled, now you want them to piss off the people who do want it, too?

              Honestly though, I feel the people who did get pissed off about this really need to get a life. Yes, T-Mobile should have made this opt-in, but what's done is done and anyone who is aware of the program and doesn't like it for whatever reason can disable it in less time than it takes to post an angry comment online.

              • disable it in less time than it takes to post an angry comment online

                Yes, very quickly, in fact. Dial #264# (#BNG#) to check your Binge-On status, #263# (#BOF#) to turn it off, and #266# (#BON#) to turn it on. Yes, really, it's that simple.

            • The biggest problem was how T-Mobile rolled it out.

              I've been with T-Mobile since they rolled out their Simple Choice plans and I've been a bleeding-edge adopter of every add-on and benefit service they've offered since (with the exception of JUMP! since I had just upgraded my phone and wasn't eligible until I was due for another upgrade; I'm using that too, now, as it costs less than the insurance I previously had and includes a few subscriptions I was previously paying for) and I have to say how T-Mobile rolls things out is always their biggest problem. Wi

          • someone somewhere might be getting a deal you are not getting.

            That's exactly why there is net neutrality.

            Everyone else must suffer because you cannot be on top

            Hmm... I don't get this... If you can be on top, why would everyone be happy when everyone can't be on top like you are???

          • "This is at the users request (the user enables binge on and the throttling setting)."

            T-mobile's intention is that only video providers on a list that they decide would be included. The fact that provider not on that list are not being throttles is actually a bug from their perspective.

            Not only are they violating net neutrality, they can't even correctly violate net neutrality.

            • by grmoc ( 57943 )

              They *are* throttling providers not on the list, though!
              You get to pay for the bytes *and* have them throttled.

        • Users and content creators should have control of the internet, and carriers should be blind carriers of data. That's the entire point of net neutrality.

          That's fine, but the result is metering and higher costs.

      • Binge on allows T-Mobile to have a say in who wins the video streaming market. In time that ability to influence will be worth money and they will start charging for it.

        The reality is the Binge on is T-Mobile using it's status as network provider to decide who will win the most video streaming business. That's bad for everyone, even if helps some of their customers.

        • Binge on allows T-Mobile to have a say in who wins the video streaming market

          How so? There are simple rules for inclusion in the program which are applied equally to all and not inherently unfair as far as I can tell.

          Please let me know when there are any services that have been excluded after requesting access and I'll listen. Until that happens, the perception of possible abuse is insufficient to prove this is anything other than an effort by T-Mobile to better serve their customers.

          • "There are simple rules for inclusion in the program"

            T-mobile decides on the criteria, therefore they implicitly get to decide who gets included by changing the rules.

            • "Until that happens, the perception of possible abuse is insufficient to prove this is anything other than an effort by T-Mobile to better serve their customers."

      • The user always had a limited about of data they could use - all binge on does is EXPAND USER CHOICE by letting some things not count against the data cap.

        So if Comcast let's their own video feeds through for free but never Netflix, that's clearly not a conflict of interest, right?

        • Except that's not the same situation at all. This is more like if Comcast let their own video feeds though for free, as well as Netflix's and any other services who chose to participate.

          • There isn't anything compelling T-Mobile to accept an application. Comcast, in that same scenario, would be free to reject their competition for any frivilous reason. There's no reason to even have an application process if everybody is accepted.

            • There isn't anything compelling Apple to support iPhones for longer than Google's legally binding 2 year major version and 3 year (or 18mo from removal from Google Store, whichever is longer) security update policy, but Apple fans are allowed to pull that out every time it comes up. And we let it stand because Apple has, historically, done just that. Until T-Mobile denies a legitimate application (and we'll surely hear about it if they ever do), we must either allow the "T-Mobile allows anyone to apply" arg
      • " EXPAND USER CHOICE"

        It's not expanding user choice if it is T-mobile that get to decide who are the favored video providers that get to avoid the throttling.

      • I should point out that all market failures arise from user choice. It's the choice of everyone to use IE that killed Netscape. Now, that choice was made cause MS made it very, very easy to use IE if you had a Windows computer. And then all the web site developers made a choice to anticipate IE's non-standards parsing because 99% of browsers were IE. And then other people made a choice to drop Netscape, cause sites didn't look good.

        Then a bunch of corporations made a choice to use ActiveX components bec

      • by grmoc ( 57943 )

        Oh boy.

        Lets pare this down to the mechanics of what is happening:
        Users pay money to carrier, which builds infrastructure which supports X bandwidth.
        Instead of giving everyone (n people) X/n bandwidth, they say that they'll offer some fixed bandwidth.. unless you're watching video.
        If you're watching video, they'll screw with the packets (even if you're paying for them) unless you've opted out entirely of the binge-on program.
        A provider must provide 720p video (even if they could have provided 1080p or better

  • See http://slashdot.org/users2.pl?... [slashdot.org] (Search TMobile).

  • by jetkust ( 596906 ) on Friday January 29, 2016 @04:36PM (#51398643)
    Uverse Internet/Video is on same pileline. But U-verse video doesn't count against data cap while all other streaming services do.
    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      Uverse Internet/Video is on same pileline. But U-verse video doesn't count against data cap while all other streaming services do.

      What data cap are you talking about here? I have Uverse TV and Internet, and there isn't any data cap on Internet usage (or if there is, it's so large that watching several hours of Netflix HD every evening doesn't hit it). But if I use my Verizon mobile account to watch content recorded on my Uverse DVR when I'm out of WiFi coverage, then yes it would count against my Verizon data cap. Personally, I prefer to watch television content on my television and not on my phone, so the Verizon cap is not an issue.

      • by jetkust ( 596906 )
        There's always a cap: http://www.att.com/esupport/ar... [att.com] Ranges from 150GB to 1TB (for gigabit service) (which is interesting because at full speed you'd blow the cap in 2 hours) Also, some people, like myself, use mobile hotspot tethering to stream to their television which Binge-On also claims to support.
  • The main difference between Binge on and other services that DID violate Net Neutrality is that Binge on is free.

    Any company in the world is allowed to offer free services to people. That is not a problem.

    The problem was when you charged customers for X, but then refused to give them X because company Y refused to pay you.

    By making Binge On free, they have neatly avoided Net Neutrality problems.

    No one has the right to charge me for X and then refuse to give me X because company Y doesn't pay you. But

    • Binge on allows T-Mobile a say in who wins the video streaming business by deciding who's free and who's not. That's bad.

      • by jetkust ( 596906 )
        Not really. T-Mobile doesn't care what services are used, just as long as the services meet their bandwidth and video quality requirements.
      • Yes, they have a say - just as NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX all have a say about who wins the streaming content over radio business.

        That by itself is NOT bad.

        It is simply a business.

        If T Mobile was someone to prevent a competitor from offering a similar free internet service, that would be bad.

    • Extorting the video providers to get on the special list is not what anyone would call "free".

      • Extort? Going to companies and trying to convince them to pay for access to customers of your free service is called running an Advertising based business.

        Extortion requires a threat. Offering a service is not a threat. It becomes a threat when you REMOVE or take away something. Binge On is not removing or taking away anything.

        • "Binge On is not removing or taking away anything."

          It is throttling some video providers and not others, and T-mobile gets to decide who gets a good connection and who gets a bad one. That is very much taking away something.

          • Actualy, no. The providers themselves get to decide whether they want to participate. If they do, they make sure they meet the technical requirements and apply. If they don't, they don't. If they apply and they meet the technical requirements, they can participate; otherwise they can not (either because they didn't apply or they technically cannot participate); they can always fix what's broken with their service and apply again. It's even free to do so.
    • By making Binge On free, they have neatly avoided Net Neutrality problems.

      Bzzzt. Wrong. Even free, the classification of certain data as unmetered, in my opinion, violates net neutrality. To play fair, they'd have to make all data unmetered, or metered. The whole point of net neutrality is you cannot give any favoritism to anything, all data needs to be treated the same, regardless of what that data is.

      I know what T-Mobile is doing is supposed to be a benefit but it's still going against what net neutrality means.

      • The reality is that the providers are required to comply with net neutrality laws, except at the request of their customers. A customer is free to ask their ISP to throttle a certain class of data and the ISP is then free to do so; that is all that is happening here.
  • Online users choose content providers with web sites over content providers without web sites. Ergo, the WWW distorts competition and should be shut down.

  • Net Neutrality is a complicated, sticky bunch of legislation that has some benefits, but also a lot of rough edges, IMO.

    This "Binge On" fiasco with T-Mobile is a great example. Here you have a service which is beneficial to the consumer, really. (I have T-Mobile and it's a win for me. I'm not a huge user of video on mobile devices in the first place, but I may as well get the bonus of un-metered viewing of content from any providers on-board with their program, just like they did with unlimited music stre

    • I'm a T-Mobile customer too. I could care less about HD video on my el-cheapo LG phone. And yes I can opt out... But I still don't trust T-Mobile. Companies have a nasty way of chipping away at the sorts of protections that Net Neutrality affords.

      What I'd really like to see is a 32 hour work week and mandatory voting in the States. Force people to take part in democracy and give them the time and resources to do so. If I felt the public at large had the wherewithal to keep constant vigil over all the s
  • I find the whole concept of Binge On very confusing, and it makes me feel like there's something fundamental I don't understand.

    With typical wired service through your cable company, the most limited resource is on the other side of your ISP, and that's why the ISPs want to get websites like youtube and netflix to cache content locally to reduce that expense. With wireless service, of course that same resource limitation and expense still exists, but by far the much bigger resource limitation is between you

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