T-Mobile is coming out hard to defend itself against accusations that its new Binge On offering is throttling customers’ video streaming in potential violation of net neutrality rules.
In a video released Thursday, the company’s bombastic CEO John Legere called those accusations “bullshit” and said the “jerks” complaining might just be fishing for headlines.
“So why are special interest groups and even Google offended by this?," he later added. "Why are they trying to characterize this as a bad thing? I think they may be trying to use net neutrality as a platform to get into the news.”
The Binge On program unveiled last year exempts streaming video from about 40 services, like Netflix or HBO, from counting against its mobile data caps. All videos stream at a certain limited quality as part of the program. Those limits are even placed on video from services that are not part of the Binge On program, like YouTube.
YouTube and others have complained that T-Mobile is throttling their video without permission. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation concluded this week that T-Mobile is simply limiting the bandwidth allowed to all video streams, which it said “definitely violates the principles of net neutrality.”
But T-Mobile said it is giving customers choice. Legere said large video files on smartphones are mostly unnecessary and said the companyt's program has given customers the ability to stretch their data plan.
“We give customers more choices, and these jerks are complaining,” he said in the video. “Who the hell do they think they are? What gives them the right to dictate what my customers or any wireless consumer can choose for themselves?”
T-Mobile’s chief operating officer, Mike Sievert, also touted consumer choice during a conference Wednesday. While video services cannot choose whether or not their video quality is degraded under the program, he said customers have the choice to turn it off.
“Everybody is rolled into it, and that is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said. “It sounds like some people are confused about that. So take the case of YouTube, every YouTube stream is part of Binge On, if the customer has got Binge On turned on.”
“If you don’t like the program, just pop, turn it off. And you can turn it on an hour later if you want,” Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s chief technology officer, said during the same talk.
The Federal Communications Commission is currently looking into the program to see how exactly it works. The agency sent letters to a number of Internet service providers recently to dig into similar programs.
The EFF has said the best option would be to require customers to opt into the program, and to require T-Mobile to make a clear disclosure that the program throttles all video traffic.