T-Mobile ‘dumbfounded’ by YouTube’s stance toward Binge On

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T-Mobile recently responded to YouTube’s criticism of Binge On, saying that calling what the service does “throttling” is misleading. Fast-forward to today and some T-Mo executives speaking at an investor conference took the opportunity to defend Binge On once again.

T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert responded to YouTube’s complaints by saying that T-Mo is “dumbfounded” about why YouTube might thing that enabling Binge On is a bad thing, adding that YouTube hasn’t yet done the work to become one of Binge On’s free streaming services. The T-Mo execs also said that YouTube’s stance on Binge On is “absurd.” YouTube hasn’t responded to these statements.

Meanwhile, the EFF touched a bit more on its recent report that called Binge On “just throttling.” Jeremy Gillula, the EFF technologist that actually wrote the group’s report on Binge On, explained that the EFF is unhappy that T-Mobile’s service is opt-out rather than opt-in. “We aren’t big fans of the way that T-Mobile has gone about it.”

As with the EFF, it seems that YouTube is unhappy with the way that T-Mobile implemented Binge On, not necessarily the service itself. YouTube previously said that “reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn’t justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent.” While T-Mo does alert users that Binge On will be automatically enabled on its website, some folks simply may not know that that’s the case, either because they’re not as technologically inclined as others or for some other reason. And considering the statements from both the EFF and YouTube, it seems like a lot of this brouhaha surrounding Binge On could’ve been avoided if T-Mobile had made Binge On opt-in rather than automatically enabling it on customers’ accounts.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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  • besweeet

    I’m dumbfounded as well. Binge On is fantastic. As they mentioned during the presentation, if you don’t like it, or agree with how it works, simply disable it, and continue as you were.

    • And if you never find out about it or don’t understand it, and you notice all of your video is suddenly choppy during buffering, then you can blame YouTube instead.

      To be fair, Binge On is a fantastic idea as you said. It’s just that it’s implemented in a disadvantageous way. To the user, 24 popular services are free, and the rest are supposed to be “optimized” to 480p so that they use less data. However, T-Mobile also includes a general throttling of all video data, which should be unnecessary if the video is mobile-optimized. This is what most are taking issue with.

      Basically, a properly implemented Binge On should be reducing just the size of the video, not the rate at which it streams. Just like you receive a mobile-optimized website from a provider, T-Mobile should automatically request 480p video. T-Mobile is instead also throttling your video stream to 1500kbps in addition to this.

      Let’s take the example of a 2-hour long movie on Netflix in Standard Definition (480p), as you would be served with Binge On enabled. That would be ~700MB of video, or 5600Mb. Normal LTE speeds are upwards of 10Mbps, so at worst you would be able to buffer the entire movie in 560 seconds, or just under 10 minutes. However, due to T-Mobile’s 1.5Mbps throttle, your buffer time just jumped up to 62 minutes, or just over an hour. In a relatively uncongested site with a good 20×20 backhaul, like Birmingham, AL, it’s not uncommon to get sustained rates of 30-70 Mbps, and peaks of 100+Mbps. At 50Mbps, you could buffer that entire movie in 2 minutes or less and then watch your movie without an active internet connection draining your battery.

      Even with something better compressed, like YouTube’s ~500MB for a 2-hour video, that cap makes for a pretty buffer-tastic experience, and it also wastes your battery life by staying connected to the mobile network for a longer period of time. And it’s slightly less drastic at smaller video lengths, but still noticeable, especially if LTE speeds are good in your area.

      T-Mobile shouldn’t be throttling the video traffic, just serving up optimized versions. This is what is drawing the controversy, especially because it was opt-out and enabled for everyone by default, and especially because T-Mobile advertised it as optimization only. There was no asterisk saying connections would be throttled; only 480p was promised.

      • Writer…

        WOW, a great explanation! Alex (T-moNews), please hire this individual as a writer and/or contributor….

        • Hey, now, I wouldn’t mind doing guest work ;) Currently too busy with college to do anything on the side!

        • Writer…

          Congratulation… and continue to stay focus on your College studies. Again, a great and detail explanation.

      • besweeet

        Is the throttled bandwidth for Binge On’d YouTube videos not enough for 480p? It seems like the limited speed should set the auto resolution/quality feature within YouTube to that resolution and play without problems.

        • Well, YouTube recommends 2000kbps. It requires 500mbps (though not without copious buffering). T-Mobile is serving 1500kbps, which should automatically limit something like YouTube to 480p, but with some choppiness.

          The two main issues from a user perspective would be if YouTube was performing slightly below average (since 1500kbps doesn’t leave much room for variance in bitrates), and if they want to seek ahead at all (since they would have to wait for the relevant sections of the video to buffer before skipping to them).

          The main issue from proponents of net neutrality would be that all video is being unfairly slowed down compared to other heavy traffic like loading images or downloading files. Since T-Mobile’s business model is based on usage caps instead of speed caps, there shouldn’t really be a reason to cap it to 1500kbps. The only thing T-Mobile gains from it is deferring downloading the rest of the video until it’s buffered, but it comes at the cost of user experience, and it wasn’t explained in the marketing material at all.

        • besweeet

          I believe you meant 500Kbps :).

          T-Mobile said, in their presentation earlier today, that it helps free backhaul resources for things other than video, as additional speed is no longer needed, due to less bandwidth being used for YouTube videos.

        • Fabian Cortez

          Preceisely.

          There’s so much more to this and YouTube isn’t being very direct. You can watch YouTube on EDGE at 240p…

        • besweeet

          Assuming you’re the only one saturating an EDGE sector…

        • Fabian Cortez

          Assuming you’re the only one saturating an EDGE sector…

          Not necessarily. The original iPhone came preloaded with YouTube and ran just “fine” for an EDGE device with a speed ~200 kbps.

          There’s no reason why a 1.5 Mbps “throttle” should buffer when YouTube has multiple adaptive bitrates. And then publicly speak out against the program.

          So where are we today:

          * YouTube, the largest video streaming site out there, is not a Binge On member, even though T-Mobile wanted them to and tried working with them.

          * The YouTube app, for years (8 years), limited iOS users to <480p quality video while over the cellular network.

          * YouTube publicly speaks out about Binge On and video quality issues (ironic considering the above bullet), even though it gets more people onto their service, thus increasing ad revenue, as data wouldn't count against the consumer's bucket.

          * 1.5 Mbps "throttle" mysteriously buffers on YouTube even though they have the most quality/bitrate options out there for streaming video.

          Again, there's something more to this.

        • besweeet

          I was mainly making fun of T-Mobile’s EDGE-only areas where it doesn’t work 90% of the time.

        • Fabian Cortez

          Oh touché.

      • calvin35

        Wish i was better at expressing myself via the written word, very well said. Funny thing is everything you just said was already in my brain but when i try to put it to paper, or screen, it comes out a mess. Anyway, very good explanation of what is going on here.

      • TylerCameron

        Birmingham has 20+20LTE? I was just there for a Bassnectar show on NYE and the speeds were atrocious.
        On the other hand, I was at a venue with 20,000 people… I had to turn off LTE to get usable internet…. Then I had to turn it back on when it became useful again.. and at some point, the data icon totally disappeared.

      • Mike Palomba

        I don’t think people blame the content provider when videos are buffering. a few months ago whenever I would try to watch (just) Twitch (a streaming service) it would buffer like crazy. My first stop was TWC because odds are, if everyone else isn’t having a problem watching twitch, then twitch isn’t the problem. Point is most people will blame the carriers data before they blame the content providers

        • calvin35

          Not when they do a speed test and see that they’re getting 75 Mbps down and their video is still constantly buffering.

        • Mike Palomba

          When this happened I did do a speed test, I was getting 300MBS down. Still, I looked at TWC Before Twitch. And the problem turned out to be TWC

        • Fabian Cortez

          I don’t think people blame the content provider when videos are buffering

          Exactly. You blame your ISP.

          Call and complain and someone will most likely suggest that you turn Binge On off.

      • SirStephenH

        Beautiful explanation, couldn’t have said it better myself. THIS is the main issue with this “service” (next being opt-in > opt-out).

  • Just a thought

    I have been with T-Mobile for almost 3 years and once binge on started I noticed my over all internet speeds being slower and choppy. I turned off binge on and now everything is fine again. To the customers who didn’t know T-Mobile network before binge on it could play right in to Verizon hand of switch to a better network. T-Mobile needs to fine tune binge on a little more and let customers opt in not make it automatic.

  • jonathan3579

    T-Mobile pacifist incoming!!!

  • Ordeith

    Everyone else dumbfounded by T-Mobile’s stance toward Binge On.

  • Matt

    I guess T-Mobile should call it the throttling that it is. Video compression is handled by a codec long before the streaming occurs. However, this explanation would be a bit confusing to the masses. T-Mobile was concerned about being hammered by the FCC for calling it throttling. I think as others noted, it should have been opt-in instead of opt-out. Nevertheless, I’m still a magenta fan. The value offered is superior to the duopoly.

  • Paul

    Omg! It is not throttling! Streaming a video at 480p instead of 1080p allows the customer to stream unlimited and not hurt their data package. 480p is hardly throttling. The customer gets unlimited data to streaming and the network is less congested! Unless you perfer to have 1080p and be capped and get charged overages after watching 1 movie on Verizon or AT&T. Besides you can turn Binge on off anytime! Genius idea for networks and customers to both get what they want! Love me some T-Mobile!!

    • kgraham182

      T-Mobile is throttling no questions about it. Trwnh worded it the best, we are not complaining about 480p. We are complaining that the downlink is limited to 1.5Mbps. A 480p video should download at the highest speed you can receive regardless if you have BingeOn on/off. But once T-Mobile senses a video be it streaming or downloadable, they are throttling your downlink to 1.5Mbps.

      • Paul

        Then turn it off, easy as signing into your T-Mobile account and flipping the switch. Problem solved!

        • kgraham182

          I have it disabled, and still getting throttled to 1.5Mbps during video streaming/downloading. You can test it, if you think I’m lying.

        • Calgrav24

          Just turned it off two days ago and my video has been normal again. YouTube works at full resolution and Netflix also goes full HD so throttling doesn’t seem to affect everyone.

        • Fabian Cortez

          Just turned it off two days ago and my video has been normal again. YouTube works at full resolution and Netflix also goes full HD so throttling doesn’t seem to affect everyone.

          Exactly.

          It’s quite clear that kgraham182 either hasn’t turned it off on all of his lines or is being untruthful.

          EDIT: Or he quite possibly might have a technical issue on his account and needs to call customer care versus ranting online.

          No one can help you online. However, customer care of the company you pay monthly for service will.

        • Adam

          It is a per line setting. You may not have turned it off for every line.

      • JayMo86

        how are you so sure that his isn’t a connection issue that results in your 1.5Mps rate? How did u confirm it anyway? Explain!

    • Rašhaud

      I agree completely!! You can’t win with some ppl.

    • calvin35

      This is just a terrible post. Just not helpful at all.

    • Jeffrey Blattman

      just go look up the definition of throttling. then come back and delete your post.

      • Android_God

        LOL

  • ssjchaseutley

    YouTube is being stupid. It’s a setting…it can be shut off.

  • Mike Palomba

    I don’t see what the big deal is, if you don’t like it, just opt out. From the first day I didn’t feel I needed binge on so I opted out. It’s simple. Want to make sure people know that they’re opted in? Send everyone enrolled a text message telling them they are currently enrolled in binge on and that if they would like to opt out of it call CS or visit this website (T-Mobile dot com/blah blah blah)

  • Android_God

    Doth protest too much and per usual the TMobile apologists are in full force.

  • ucmee

    how about Youtube stop pushing all these ads in my videos.

    • Subscribe to Youtube Red and that happens. Your choice whether to have those ads or not.

    • eanfoso

      I have a blackberry and on regular youtube videos I can skip ads and on 30+ minute ones I don’t even have ads. I can also listen to youtube on the background, it’s an amazing device and best part is no need to pay the ridiculous subscription to youtube red.

    • BeTerminated

      So why don’t you pay for it. Ads or pay. Nothing is free. I am paying for youtube (deal $7.99 s month) and as far i am happy with it. not only remove annoying ads but also gives you proirioty on server as far i noticed. Buffering is much quicker when i am logged with my paid acount. simple.

      • ucmee

        I’m being sarcastic.

    • Jeffrey Blattman

      you have a profound misunderstanding of how an economy works.

      • ucmee

        and you have a profound misunderstanding of sarcasm. My point is if t-mobile is creating innovative ways of offering services that no other carrier in the business will ever offer, they should try to work together rather than find a solution. t-mo is the kid in class offering a cookie to everyone and google/youtube is the bratty kid who complains that their cookie is bigger than everybody else and tells the teacher. I’ve worked with google/youtube as a technology partner in the past and that’s how they do business.

        • Jeffrey Blattman

          “t-mo is the kid in class offering a cookie to everyone and google/youtube is the bratty kid who complains that their cookie is bigger than everybody else and tells the teacher”-

          yep, sounds like you have a firm grasp on everything that’s at play here. i only hope that both t-mo and google can fire their legal and marketing departments and hire you in their place. what an incredible cost saving measure.

  • SirStephenH

    I’m on an unlimited plan and I wish they gave a choice between hotspot and phone data. I’d keep in on for the hotspot but there is ZERO reason to keep it on for phone data. This ended up just being a carrier move.

    • Fabian Cortez

      I’m on an unlimited plan and I wish they gave a choice between hotspot and phone data. I’d keep in on for the hotspot but there is ZERO reason to keep it on for phone data. This ended up just being a carrier move.

      Yup. Free video streaming, music streaming, international data, etc. are all bad things and very carrier.

      Have you tried turning Binge On off?

  • SirStephenH

    F*** Binge On. Just let everyone choose their own throttle speed and give them “perks” for each level.

    • calvin35

      People need to realize that t-mobile’s number one goal with Binge On is to throttle as many of their subscribers as they possibly can. Everything else associated with Binge On is simply window dressing meant to distract. If T-Mobile did what you are suggesting that would defeat the whole purpose of Binge On. Binge on is really nothing more than a glorified throttling service.

      • Fabian Cortez

        People need to realize that t-mobile’s number one goal with Binge On is to throttle as many of their subscribers as they possibly can. Everything else associated with Binge On is simply window dressing meant to distract. If T-Mobile did what you are suggesting that would defeat the whole purpose of Binge On. Binge on is really nothing more than a glorified throttling service.

        You’re reading minds now? Please let us know how offering free video streaming is meant to throttle and control people.

      • Kyle Thompson

        that is TRUTH.

        TMO and their lawyers sat around before implementing this and decided what’s the best way we can save some bandwidth to keep up our superior network speeds and still give our customers something to sugarcoat it. and this (even though i hate it) genius plan is what they came up with.

        lets give credit where it’s due. it backfired in the PR department for TMO, but it was a great idea to improve network speeds and give back something to the customer in unlimited videos from certain services not counting to the data cap.

        for those with lower end phones and limited data plans, this really is a win-win for both sides. i don’t know how many users that would be, but it’s got to be at least 50% if not a lot more of the TMO subscriber base falls into one or both of those categories.

        really the only people harmed by this are like me with a very current phone and unlimited data plan, as such i have no interest at all in 480p videos vs full HD where available. and it did piss me off a bit they snuck this as an ‘opt-out’ automatic deal for us. i think TMO could have avoided 99% of the problem had they just auto-opted-in the non-Unlimited plan subscribers, but that’s just my opinion.

        either way, you’d have to live in a black hole if you’re affected by this and still don’t know how to turn it off if you want to. really shouldn’t be an ongoing story any longer i think…

  • badassn

    “adding that YouTube hasn’t yet done the work to become one of Binge On’s free streaming services.”

    What the hell happened to Net Neutrality T-mobile? This is the kind of BS that has me tempted to switch to Project Fi.

    • Project Fi…Tmobile

      Good, even if Google Project Fi uses Tmobile network in partnership to offer their service..

      • badassn

        Exactly! It uses the towers of multiple carriers, but without their throttling or crappy policies!

        • Android_God

          U just switched to FI. So far, no complains. The only caveat would be if you use a lot of mobile data this isn’t for you. You’ll end up paying more versus TMobile.

  • Guest

    Well, I think the intention was good, giving people more option. I don’t how much of all this may be true, the throttling could be cause be other stuff, congestion, time, coverage, extra layer of things added to get blinge to work and just a big influx of new subscribers. Anyhow it is just an option and for the complainer being so technical turning it off is easy probably easier then just posting all this. This seem to get a bit too toxic, I mean you could suggest or question them beofire just throw all this toxic out or just turn off or switch carrier. I personally know many new subscribers are very happy with T-Mobile. I think T-Mobile I carrier move have shift the carrier paradigm. Otherwise, I think the other will even try harder to suck the life out of you. I not sure how choppy is the video experience with blinge on but if it is watchable 480p is not bad and it is free. I mean if you care for quality over using your data allotment then just turn it off but good luck with your shortlive high quality video. If you care so much you should not even watch on mobile device and if you have unlimited data just turn it off.

  • AS118

    Yeah, binge-on’s too heavy handed on video, whether it’s streamed or downloaded. It really should have been opt-in, as many people might want higher than 480p quality, especially on a big-screen phone or tablet.

    Also, limiting video download speeds (not just streaming) is a bit much.

  • bill

    No wonder my youtube videos bufferred

  • Steven

    T-Mobile needs to make an app, add it pre-loaded or downloadable on all T-Mobile phones, and have it simply be a switch for Binge-On. “OFF” or “ON” describing unlimited video at 480p or top quality video eating your data like pacman. I know everyone can access it directly on their account app or online. But this would greatly simplify many of the steps so people can know its there and turn it off and on as desired. This would clear up most of the public’s issues with it. Personally I like it and I’ll leave it on.

    • Romdude

      Good idea on the app. That would make it so much easier. But I think it will only work for the main account user.

  • Flow My Tears, The T-Mobile User Said. By John J. Legere.

  • Stephen J Ketchen

    Binge On is definitely throttling. I’ve been on the Walmart exclusive $30 per month prepaid plan with 5GB of data for over 5 years. I thought Binge On only applied to Simple Choice Postpaid and Prepaid plans. I didn’t know that they put Binge On on my prepaid plan as well; at least the “optimization” of video streaming, not the data savings.

    Yesterday I had a strong LTE signal with full bars and I tried watching a quick Youtube video. I was surprised at the low quality since I have a 5.5 inch 1080p screen on my phone. I went to the video settings on the YouTube video and saw that it was playing back at 240p, so I switched it to play back at 720p. It kept stopping every 10 to 15 seconds to buffer. I couldn’t watch a minute and a half YouTube video on my phone on 720p without it buffering 6 or 7 times. I did a speed test after that and I got a result of 90ms Ping, 50Mbps download and 25Mbps upload.

    It took me awhile to search and find a way to disable Binge On on my account. I wasn’t able to do it online on my laptop because any setting for Binge On did not show up under available services. Next, I tried using the T-Mobile My Account app, but my first three attempts at trying to turn it off failed. In the app, in Plans and Services it did show up under Add Services as “Binge On Disabled”. I selected it and tried to add the service (although adding a “disabled” service seems a little counterintuative) but each time I tried, it gave me an error response showing a URL and saying something to the effect that the web page responded with an empty field. I had no option but to hit the back button and attempt to add the “disabled” service again, but I kept getting the same error. I quit trying for awhile. Later in the evening I tried to disable Binge On video “optimization” again in the Android app. This time I was able to “add” the “Binge On Disabled” service. Now I streamed the same video on LTE at 720p with absolutely no buffering.

    Now, to top it all off, if I go back into the T-Mobile app or the My-T-Mobile website there is no way for me to turn the Binge On video optimization back on. I know that I am on a ridiculously cheap, prepaid T-Mobile plan, but I think it is a little shady to all of a sudden start to throttle video content on my account without my permission, even though it will make my data go farther. I shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to turn off the video “optimization” (THROTTLING) so I can get back the service I signed up for. And last but not least, now I can’t turn the video “optimization” back on if I decided I did want the data savings. It should have been an Opt-in service. It should have been specifically spelled out that the video optimization technology was applied to ALL Prepaid and Postpaid plans and that ALL streamed and downloaded video would be throttled, regardless of whether the streaming service was part of the “free data” plan.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love T-Mobile! It has literally saved me thousands of dollars compared to what I was paying when I was with Verizon. I do think that the Binge On service could be good for many people. It just should have been implemented differently, explained better and not been forced on everyone all at once.

  • todd

    Q: With BingeOn, the quality is not noticeably worse? Even on a 10 inch tablet?

  • Lee Hughes

    The company I work for recently decided to switch to T-Mobile. The week before Thanksgiving, we were finally free from the AT&T golden handcuffs. Don’t get me wrong, T-Mobile has several faults that prevent it from being a “Better Network” (in our area – Rural Oklahoma), but it is by far the “Better Carrier”.

    Since switching, we have had more dropped calls, LTE data in fewer places, poorer reception indoors, and many places with no service, at all. Yet, we couldn’t be happier. We are free from the idea that data is so precious, we shouldn’t use it. Also, data speeds are generally faster, even at lower signal strength.

    Our corporate overages were budgeted to “Only” $10,000 a month. Corporate had to constantly police the data usage of every employee. It was a pain in the ass for management and users. We were budgeted 2 – 10 GB of data, depending on need and role. When we went over, we had to answer to the usage. If unjustified, we could be wrote up or have our phones taken away. One guy got fired when he was responsible for over $2K of overages from watching Netflix.

    Now, we have set amounts of LTE data for each user. If we go over, nobody yells at us. It just slows WAY down till the next billing cycle (Sucks, but much better than filing an overage report. I promise). Plus, everyone got an upgrade in their data allotment. We now have between 6Gb – Unlimited data. Again, based on percieved need. Yet our departmental budgets for cell phones shows a reduction of over 60%.

    Most folks have managed to not run out of data. I was lucky enough to be put on the unlimited plan, but I decided to keep Binge On! Active to see what my usage would be like with it enabled. In the past, I generally tried to avoid streaming video over our previous carrier. Even being somewhat cautious, I would still use about 6Gb a month. I estimate about 4Gb of that to be video. But now, I burn through as much LTE data as I can! I almost never use WiFi. I will go to sleep watching videos. 95% of my visual entertainment is provided by T-Moble LTE. When I check usage on my device, it is not uncommon for me to burn through 10-20Gb a week. Now, because of Binge On! only 2Gb a week is counted toward my plan. I could easily switch to a 10Gb plan and do everything I want. This is in such stark contrast to 10Gb a month on AT&T, which can be burned up so easily, it’s scary.

    I’ve continued to track usage, and it is incredible how much disparity there is between my actual device usage and billable usage. If TMobile is doing Binge On! to save bandwidth costs, well, good luck with that. All it has done is encourage us to use WAY more actual bandwidth.

    With Binge On!, everyone can use their company phones to watch Netflix and other services whenever they want. To me, the quality looks great, even when I connect my phone to my TV. Call it what you will, but Binge On! has made the Internet and videos, in particular, much better for everyone at my work. Plus, no more meetings about usage. No more usage memos. No more overage reports. No more angry managers. It’s awesome.

    I have turned Binge On! off, and yes, video quality improves. But for people without unlimited data, it is a great option to increase the amount of things you can do within your data cap.

  • Romdude

    I have unlimited high speed, I just turned binge on off. Easy peasy.