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New EFF Report Says T-Mobile is Throttling Content

For a while now, T-Mobile has been under fire for their Binge On program. One of the issues it is facing is YouTube's complaint that the "Un-carrier" mobile was throttling all video services on its network even though YouTube isn't part of their Binge On program. T-Mobile has denied this criticism time and time again. There is a new report, however, that supports YouTube's complaint.
The new report is published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Under this report, they have evidence of Binge On throttling all videos streamed by users.

In order to obtain the results, the EFF performed some tests using a phone with a T-Mobile network and a strong 4G LTE connection. The series of tests performed took note of the time actions were performed including the following:

  • Downloading a video to an SD card
  • Downloading a video without its file name indicating it was a video
  • Downloading a large file that wasn't necessarily a video
  • Streaming an HTML5 video through a website
To make sure of the results of the test, the EFF conducted each twice. The first test was done with HTTP so the carrier could see that the file was accessed. The second test was done using HTTPS so the carrier won't be able to view the content.

On its testing, the EFF was able to discover that all video streams were being throttled by T-Mobile to a speed of around 1.5Mbps. This was irregardless of the phone connection used and the video being played. This even included the streamed and downloaded videos that were planned to be viewed at a later time. And judging on the results, the EFF found that T-Mo's Binge On program does not even change videos served to its users in either option. What the carrier does was to slow down the turnout to 1.5Mbps instead of lowering the video's quality or adapting to it. And for the user, they will see stuttering on the content they have tried to access. Another discovery made by the EFF was that the connection on downloads that weren't video content were still slowed down by the carrier. This was something T-Mobile attributed to looking into files more deeply than what HTTP headers could and could detect video-specific attributes without looking into the content.

This report by the EFF is a big slap to Binge On. When presented with the report, the carrier confirmed that it does not optimize video streams beyond lowering its bandwidth. The carrier says that it depends on how the video provider responds and serves content given its reduced bandwidth. And if the provider is unable to adapt to this, the video becomes stuttered on the user's end.

In theory, T-Mobile's Binge On program does seem great and all; especially if you like to stream video content on your device. But with Binge On automatically enabled for users, it poses a problem with those who do not want to use the program, particularly for those who prefer watching videos on YouTube other than the providers that have partnered with Binge On.

With all that's going on with Binge On (an FCC inquiry, YouTube's complaint plus today's EFF report), T-Mobile needs to respond to this as soon as they can. The best way T-Mobile can appease their users is to offer Binge On as an opt-in service instead of an opt-out. While this may seem simple, it could do a lot of good for its users since not everyone wants to avail it. Perhaps this would also lessen the number of criticisms they had to face regarding this issue.

Source: TMONews

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  1. This is not rocket science. If you want fast streaming just go out off. That all you have to do.

  2. sadly this is not surprising
    t-mobile CEO seems to be about hype and more hype,just like all the promo about being an UN carrier? really? you don't want us to think of you as a telecommunications carrier service? t-mobile already has enough distractors why does he insist on such promotion.
    where is the FCC when he's claiming twice as far and 4 times better in the buildings when those of us who tried are finding their maps are showing LTE where it's hard to even send a text!
    it likely build a little better reputation that t-mobile can possibly be a decent carrier at least in some areas!

  3. sounds like TROUBLE with a capital T
    For T-mobile!

    course from the number of complaints It would appear that several cell phone services and full truthfulness seem to be somewhat divergent from one another!

  4. T-Mobile throttles videos.

    Verizon throttles MVNOs.

    AT&T throttles Cricket.

    Sprint only throttles people who surpass their data cap, as do the other three.

    If the FCC won't crack down on double-throttling, then only Softbank's Emperor Masayoshi can save America from the looming threat of buffering.

    Anyone who remembers the 90s knows what horrors await us if the Wireless ISPs have their way.

    1. "Verizon throttles MVNOs.

      AT&T throttles Cricket."

      But this is done entirely without regard to the content of the data, which is entirely reasonable AND within the letter and spirit of Net Neutrality. Same for Sprint's policy... no different.

      Huge difference from T-Mobile smacking people which high chargers for streaming videos from some companies and not others.

    2. The issue isn't really extra charges.

      It's the creation of an artificial scarcity by virtue of limiting bandwidth speeds and data transfers.

      This allows the throttling shysters to "turn on the tap" when it comes to certain services who agree to "play ball" with them.

      Verizon and Cricket just happen to be the worst offenders, because they throttle EVERYTHING and create entire swaths of "second class customers."

      The only reason T-Mobile can even pull these shenanigans is because the FCC does everything in its power to avoid regulating such telecommunication fiefdoms who exert their influence in uncompetitive ways.

      If the FCC actually stood up and, in the spirit of net neutrality, required the networks to stop meddling with their customers' connections altogether, then it'd solve the problems of throttling, sponsored data and Binge all in one fell swoop.

      But then again, they'd actually have to improve their networks' capacity and find ways of including desiable value-added service, thereby improving customers' experience and satisfaction.

      Wouldn't that just be terrible?

    3. What Verizon and Cricket do in throttling isn't "terrible" unless you feel entitled to free stuff. The throttled speeds are as advertised, and within the law as this is done without regard to data content.

    4. ... and you seem to be one to require that GM ensure that a Malibu could go as fast as a Corvette.

      I have no problem with paying less for throttled and more for faster, as long as the law is obeyed on network neutrality. Again, it's not rocket science... it is only sensible to pay more to get more.

  5. is this just on tmobile?
    or is this also on tmobile mvnos also?

    1. Only T-Mobile, MetroPCS and T-Mobile business resellers like Smartel and NetTalk. There have been no reports of viseo throttling on MVNOs like PTel, Ultra Mobile or Simple Mobile.

  6. Irregardless is not really a word. By people using it anyway it's getting more "accepted" but it's tighter writing to just use regardless. Nice article otherwise!

    1. Irregardless of they're usage of the word, the meaning was perfectly clear. Best to go after those who really mangle things by putting the $ after the amount (as in "500$") or flip date representation (29/12/15).

  7. Well, signing up for Binge On is signing up for a 'free' data compression proxy. It's not at all surprising that the proxy slows *everything* down, especially since the whole point of the program is to cut down on T'Mo's network overhead, not to actually provide you with better service. They just threw out the 'free 480p streaming to a few sites' bone to get people to go along with it.

    1. Couldn't have said it better myself!

  8. Is this really unlimited video streaming (of only certain feeds?) or just low quality usage of the data you've got (example 5 gb) and then "allowing" the low quality to continue on your already throttled down "unlimited" data speed with T-Mobile?
    Is this nothing more than sending low quality vids with the same data plan you've already paid for? just repackaging with a new name for making your fast data last longer viewing vids if you chose to reduce the quality with "binge on"?
    aka like T-Mobile's big uncarrier move of better calling and coverage if you got a micro tower and used your own internet for wifi calling.... yeah T-Mobile covers millions more... if you are near somebody's open WiFi...
    (before someone comments I realize where there's been Band 12 it's been a real improvement...let's hope more to come with more bandwidth with all the carriers.. we need more not less competition, but that will come with more real cell coverage for the smaller carriers to really compete..)

    1. Binge On is not unlimited video streaming, it's video streaming that doesn't count against your high speed data limit. Once you reach the limit, everything, including video from T-Mobile's favorite services is throttled to 128 Kbps.

    2. Yet most news sites call it "unlimited streaming" when reporting on it, and they all call for other carriers to follow it.

      This proves shows "mission accomplished" with TMobile's attempt to deceptively describe this scheme of dubious legality which really boils down to slow speed throttled video in your high speed plan.

      So yeah if you have another carrier, who really wants your carrier to follow T-Mobile so your YouTube videos stutter and crawl even if you are paying for the fastest LTE?

    3. It sounded like zero-rating allowed for unlimited high speed data since it "didn't count."

      But if it gets throttled all the same, then you actively need to over-purchase data in order to keep the service active.

      I suppose that's one way of stringing customers along.

    4. Yeah and about Band 12: what about T-Mobile not supporting it for most unlocked (budget) phones like the Moto E2! This deception ticks me off to no end. And it's all just to make an extra buck too.

  9. At least you can turn it off easily if you don't want to Binge On, Dudes!

    I'm more annoyed at mobile phone companies that turn on voicemail automatically and there's NO WAY to turn it off from their account management page. Some of them even refuse to turn it off when you call customer service. I think the FCC should look into that!

  10. I could tell this was coming from the outset of Legere and company trying to dodge all the hard questions about the Binge On service at the announcement event last year. This is bad news for the T! They need to fix this NOW.

    1. Why would they need to fix this now? They get away with smoke and mirrors and frivolous lawsuits and false claims for years now, only stepping back when there is legal action. They seem to get rewarded for bad behavior.

      As long as they can fool enough people that this back-door throttling scam called "binge on" is great, they won't need to fix a thing.

    2. The answer: because it's the right thing to do!

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