Binge On, the new video content viewing feature that T-Mobile introduced nearly a couple of months ago, continues to take a lot of flak. When it first announced its newest service, the third biggest wireless carrier in the United States had promised that the feature would provide a top quality, zero buffering experience for mobile users, especially those who are subscribers of T-Mobile’s Simple Choice postpaid plans. However, according to a report released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization, it appears that T-Mobile’s Binge On feature does indeed throttle all video content, no matter which source they come from.
What T-Mobile’s Binge On feature basically offers is an opportunity for the wireless carrier’s subscribers to experience unlimited streaming of video content from a select list of service providers, including Netflix, Hulu, and DirecTV, without it ever affecting the user’s data allotment every month. But weeks after it was launched, the service began to get some negative feedback (and even attract the Federal Communications Commission's attention). Last month, YouTube had charged that the feature was downgrading the quality of YouTube videos without their or the customer’s consent. T-Mobile had addressed the issue by stating that it was not throttling videos from YouTube (who has not yet participated in Binge On, by the way), but merely optimizing them for mobile device viewing.
But it appears that YouTube may have had a valid point. The EFF’s report was based on the results of a number of tests that the NGO had recently conducted. Specifically, the organization utilized the same T-Mobile handset in order to access a posted video via several different methods, including streaming with a web page and downloading to an SD card. The EFF conducted all test methods at least two times via HTTP and HTTPS networks, and further made sure that the test handset it used possessed a solid and reliable T-Mobile LTE connection every time.
The EFF found that regardless of how video content was streaming and of how strong the handset’s connection was, the Binge On feature was throttling all video loading speeds to about 1.5 mbps. One way of optimizing streaming videos is by altering the way the content is downloaded or played, but the EFF’s findings show that T-Mobile is simply throttling speeds, which means that if the video content provider does not automatically reduce the quality of the streaming video, viewers will likely deal with some buffering as well as slowed down loading speeds. The EFF’s tests also show that T-Mobile’s service throttles all video content regardless of the content provider source.
T-Mobile has actually responded to the EFF’s report, claiming that while its Binge On service does lower the bandwidth alloted for video streaming services, it is not doing any throttling. Of course, the EFF does not agree with the reasoning, pointing out that the slowed video speeds are applied to all users of Binge On all the time regardless of the source of the video content.
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