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.
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.
Speaking of the providers, van Schewick says that the services included with Binge On serve up mostly commercial video rather than user-generated or educational content. “Binge on stifles free expression,” she claims.
van Schewick also argues that Binge On harms innovation because the providers must work with T-Mobile and, in some cases, make tweaks to their service to meet T-Mo’s technical requirements. And though T-Mobile says that providers only need to do a “minor amount of technical work” to join Binge On, van Schewick says that the requirements to join are “substantial.” She argues that the requirements exclude services that use the User Datagram Protocol, “making it impossible for innovative providers such as YouTube to join,” and that they also work against providers that use encryption.
van Schewick goes on to make suggestions on how T-Mobile could change its service. For example, she suggests a “zero-rated low-bandwidth mode” that would operate at the same speed as Binge On and would not touch a user’s data, but would let them do whatever they’d like online at that speed.
It remains to be seen if the FCC will actually force T-Mobile to do anything about Binge On. While the agency recently met with T-Mobile to discuss Binge On, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that these meetings are only mean to gather information and that he hasn’t actually attended any of them. Wheeler has previously weighed in on Binge On, describing the service as “highly innovative and highly competitive.” He went on to say that the FCC will keep an eye on Binge On going forward.
As for today’s report, John Legere would likely argue it with many of the same points that he’s made previously. He’s said that Binge On doesn’t violate net neutrality because customers can turn it off and on whenever they’d like, and yesterday T-Mo made it even easier to do just that. He’d likely also reiterate that any provider is welcome to join Binge On if they want to.
The full report Binge On report can be round right here. What do you think of van Schewick’s arguments?