Binge on bad video? YouTube accuses T-Mobile of throttling

YouTube is accusing T-Mobile of throttling its video as part of the wireless carrier’s Binge On offering, which exempts some video streaming from counting against customers’ data caps.

T-Mobile downgrades video quality for streams from Netflix, Hulu and more than 20 other video providers with which it has partnerships. YouTube isn’t a partner, but it’s complaining that its video is being degraded anyway, according to the Wall Street Journal.

T-Mobile’s Binge On offering — which it points out is opt-in — seemed like a net neutrality issue from the start. The FCC’s Open Internet order calls for no throttling and no preferential treatment of traffic. But T-Mobile and other carriers and broadband providers are experimenting with so-called zero-rating services that don’t count against data caps.

The Federal Communications Commission last week sent letters to T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast to ask for meetings by Jan. 15 about “the innovative things they are doing” — but was careful to say there was no “investigation” or “enforcement” involved yet. The companies say they will “cooperate” and “look forward” to talking with the FCC.

The Internet Association, of which Google parent YouTube is a member, said in a statement today: “Reducing data charges for entire classes of applications can be legitimate and benefit consumers, so long as clear notice and choice is provided to service providers and consumers. However, a reasonably designed zero-rating program does not include the throttling of traffic for services or consumers that do not participate.”

But all this is complicated: Netflix, a T-Mobile Binge On partner, is also a member of the Internet Association — and the Los Gatos company has been an outspoken proponent of net neutrality.

Update: A T-Mobile spokeswoman emailed to say the company isn’t slowing down YouTube; the videos are “lower resolution” and “mobile optimized,” she said.

Above: Logo from YouTube


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