T-Mobile's Binge On feature allows for unlimited streaming from 38 partner services with usage that does not count against your monthly high-speed data limits, and Binge On also helps stretch your data usage from other video streaming sites to let you stream up to 3x as much video for the same amount of data.
What's not to love, unless you are Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint?
Plenty, it seems.
Over the past weeks T-Mobile has been suffering withering criticism from multiple fronts about how Binge On has been implemented, and how it was rolled out automatically enabled for all T-Mobile customers - who then have to manually opt-out to disable it.
This week the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) added fuel to the flames by issuing a highly-critical report dissecting how Binge On works, calling on T-Mobile to "stop futzing with your customer’s traffic" and concluding that "the FCC can and should step in and hold T-Mobile accountable".
From the EFF report:
"The first result of our test confirms that when Binge On is enabled, T-Mobile throttles all HTML5 video streams to around 1.5Mps, even when the phone is capable of downloading at higher speeds, and regardless of whether or not the video provider enrolled in Binge On. This is the case whether the video is being streamed or being downloaded—which means that T-Mobile is artificially reducing the download speeds of customers with Binge On enabled, even if they’re downloading the video to watch later. It also means that videos are being throttled even if they’re being watched or downloaded to another device via a tethered connection." ...
"In other words, our results show that T-Mobile is throttling video streams, plain and simple."
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T-Mobile is Sick of the Haters
In the blog post, John was a bit diplomatic:
"So, let’s see…our customers love it, our content partners love it, anyone can join, there is no charge or extra fee, and you don’t have to do anything to get it, NOTHING. And best of all, customers have COMPLETE CONTROL over how or whether to use the benefits of Binge On … and these guys are lobbying for headlines to make that sound like a bad thing. Are they crazy?? Seriously, what am I missing here?"
But during a Twitter Q&A he let out how he really feels, and he is pissed:
"Who the fuck are you EFF? Why are you stirring up so much trouble and who pays you?"
He doesn't like that Binge On has become swept up into the debate about how Network Neutrality rules should be implemented:
"The fuss is coming from a bunch of pandering ideologues using this as a platform to discuss an issue that’s secondary to customers, and we’re just in the middle of it."
And when it comes down to it - anyone who does not like Binge On can turn it on or off at any time:
"There’s no gotcha. EFF is not your BFF. I’ve explained what we use for the technology. The point is that this is an option, it’s a benefit, and it meets all of the requirements of being net neutrality friendly. It’s free, customers control it, any provider that meets technical requirements can join, and it’s agnostic to content."
John also clarified in his Twitter chat that toggling Binge On off should take ten minutes or less to take effect, despite the warning on T-Mobile's site that changes may take up to two hours.
This speed of toggling improvement addresses one of our criticisms of the service, though there has been no update yet on issues with Binging to an Apple TV or other similar devices.
Read our post with instructions how to control Binge On here.
Binge On Expands - Adds 14 More Partners
T-Mobile launched Binge On with 24 partner sites that did not count against monthly high-speed usage limits, and today T-Mobile announced that it has added 14 more.
T-Mobile also announced that over 50 additional video streaming sites have asked to be included, and it was working on adding them. Even porn streaming sites will be added, as confirmed in the Twitter Q&A:
"We do not discriminate on content, so there will be a number of porn sites becoming part of the free service. We may not advertise the partnership, but we’ll keep you posted."
Notably absent was any mention of when YouTube might be added as a free streaming partner.
Since Google is one of Binge On's chief critics, we don't expect YouTube to be added soon.
Is the Binge of Criticism Warranted?
For anyone without an unlimited data plan to fall back on, Binge On makes streaming on the road affordable and easy - and from an RVers perspective, we think that Binge On is one of the best things to happen in the mobile industry in the past year.
With Binge On compatible plans as cheap as $35/mo, it is almost a no-brainer addition to many RVers connectivity arsenals.
And for most people on the go - it did indeed make sense for T-Mobile to enable Binge On by default when it rolled out the feature in November.
But if you happen to already have a T-Mobile Unlimited smartphone plan, Binge On being turned on by default was indeed a raw deal - reducing your video streaming resolution with little actual benefit. It would have been nice if T-Mobile had made the feature opt-in instead of opt-out for Unlimited customers.
But overall - in our opinion, the mounting criticism against T-Mobile is unwarranted.
UPDATE: John Legere Apologizes to the EFF
John Ledger's "Who the fuck are you EFF?" tweet blew up in his face - so much so that he issued an "Open Letter to Consumers about Binge On" yesterday (January 11th) apologizing:
Look, by now you know that I am a vocal, animated and sometimes foul mouthed CEO. I don’t filter myself and you know that no one at T-Mobile filters me either (no, they don’t even try). That means I will sometimes incite a bit of a ‘social media riot’, but I’m not going to apologize for that.
I will however apologize for offending EFF and its supporters. Just because we don’t completely agree on all aspects of Binge On doesn’t mean I don’t see how they fight for consumers. We both agree that it is important to protect consumers' rights and to give consumers value. We have that in common, so more power to them. As I mentioned last week, we look forward to sitting down and talking with the EFF and that is a step we will definitely take. Unfortunately, my color commentary from last week is now drowning out the real value of Binge On – so hopefully this letter will help make that clear again.
He also explained why T-Mobile enabled Binge On by default for all customers:
We strive to default all of our customer benefits to “ON.” We don’t like to make customers dig around to find great new benefits -- that is something a traditional carrier would do when they really hope you, the consumer, won’t take any action. Can you imagine the disappointment, if people saw our TV commercials about Binge On, then went to watch 10 hours of video expecting it to be free, and only THEN learned that they needed to go into their settings to activate this new benefit? That’s how the Carriers would do it, but not T-Mobile. Everyone has it from day 1, period.
If you are still at all confused about how Binge On works, the rest of the letter is well worth reading.
Normally I love the EFF (and have been a supporter for decades) - but in this case I think they've gotten things wrong.
T-Mobile's Binge On is a feature, not a bug.
Hopefully T-Mobile and the EFF will be able to bury the hatchet soon.
- Not Everyone is Happy with T-Mobile’s “Binge On” Optimizations
- T-Mobile “Binge On” NOT Compatible With Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, PlayStation, etc…
- T-Mobile Doubles Data Plans, Announces “Binge On” Unlimited Video Streaming
- Downsides of Binging: T-Mobile’s Stealth Price Increase, New Data Stash Limits
- T-Mobile Binge On FAQ
- Unlimited Entertainment: Getting HBO (and more) on the Road
- TV & Movie Viewing Options for RVers