Stanford professor argues T-Mobile’s Binge On hurts net neutrality
The fallout from the defense of T-Mobile’s Binge On program streams on. In its short existence as an Un-carrier feature, the zero-rated video streaming service has gotten into hot water from the EFF while piquing the interest of the FCC. All the while, the company’s CEO John Legere ferociously stood ground in not only the net neutral status of the program, but in its good value to customers and content providers.
Stanford University Professor and Director of the school’s Center for Internet and Society Barbara van Schewick has published a whitepaper arguing that Binge On does not comport with net neutrality principles, calling the program “aptly named: it feels good in the short-term but harms consumers in the long run.”
van Schewick states that providers can gain a competitive advantage over others by simply joining Binge On, an especially attractive proposition to customers when the word “free” comes into play. Choice of content is also limited as the program zero-rates video streaming from Binge On providers, but doesn’t zero-rate content outside of the program. T-Mobile allegedly “stifles” free expression as little user-generated, educational or not-for-profit content sources are featured. Finally, by requiring content providers to acquire certain technical capability to join Binge On, T-Mobile is also harming innovation.
The professor goes on to say that even if every single content provider in the universe were to be included in Binge On, it would not meet the muster of the FCC’s Open Internet Order by simply only zero-rating video content and not all content. Furthermore, van Schewick found out that Binge On isn’t available to customers who have used their data allotment for other purposes per billing cycle. This catch may make T-Mobile’s advertising of the program as “unlimited video streaming” a misrepresentation and the company subject to federal fines.
The whitepaper goes on to propose solutions such as raising data caps on plans, providing an opt-in omnibus low-bandwidth setting or simply allow unlimited, regular-bandwidth video streaming to all users.
This whitepaper comes on a Friday, so we may see the usually-flamboyant John Legere measure his reaction at the very least before giving it to the public. But after having to bite his tongue following his cursing out of the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Periscope, it’s a possibility he may not even respond to an academic paper.
It could be to his company’s benefit as more any publicity of Binge On is good publicity.