T-Mobile's Ultra-Hip CEO Not So Ultra-Hip When It Comes To His Clumsy, Status Quo Opposition To Net Neutrality
from the phony-baloney dept
Ever since regulators rejected AT&T’s dodgy acquisition justifications for the T-Mobile deal, T-Mobile has taken on new life, disrupting the wireless sector with a number of consumer-friendly policies that have included dismantling the traditional subsidized phone model. A big part of that consumer-friendly attitude has come in the form of CEO John Legere, whose often hilarious foul-mouthed tirades, Twitter rants and faux-punk rock attitude are a welcome change from the mindlessly-optimistic and rote recitations of most CEOs.
At the same time, more than a few people have pointed out over the last year that Legere (whose career started with a twenty-year stretch at AT&T and a notably more stodgy stint as Global Crossing’s CEO) is really just performing a cartoon caricature whose revolutionary spirit only goes so far. Prime examples are not only the company’s private admissions that it’s loathe to compete on price, but also Legere’s un-nuanced positions on net neutrality, illustrating the CEO is immeasurably more status quo than his persona would have the tech industry believe.
Earlier this year, T-Mobile announced with great fanfare they’d be exempting the most popular music services from the wireless company’s usage caps. We were quick to point out that while perhaps appealing superficially to consumers, this practice violates net neutrality by giving larger, more popular services a leg up over smaller, less-known competitors. T-Mobile was also criticized by Public Knowledge for exempting speedtests from the company’s caps in order to mask the company’s throttling practices. At the time, Legere was “genuinely surprised” by the criticism, arguing that because nobody was paying T-Mobile to bypass the caps — it wasn’t a neutrality violation.
Fast-forward to this week, and Legere is showing again that he really doesn’t understand what fundamental net neutrality is really about. Responding to the President’s surprise unequivocal support of Title II reclassification, Legere went on quite a Twitter tirade about the perils of “overzealous” regulation, proclaiming that weaker, legally-dubious Section 706 rules were better than the Title II approach, because, well, “innovation!”
Don?t let the gov?t kill innovation. It has made us the fastest growing wireless company in America. #netneutrality
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) November 10, 2014
9/ I favor the 706 version, if regulated, because… did I mention how much I love innovation?!
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) November 11, 2014
In short, you’ve got a “pro-consumer” company that only exists because regulators prevented a duopoly from eating it — complaining about regulatory intervention that’s necessary to protect consumers from duopoly. As The Verge did an excellent job pointing out, Legere’s simply engaging in “classic regulatory doublespeak” in order to protect his company’s right to enact aggressive and anti-consumer pricing models sometime down the line. For examples of this ambition, you only need to look toward T-Mobile US’s sister operations under Deutsche Telekom in Hungary, where T-Mobile recently started charging users more to access select content and services:
“Here?s how it works. T-Mobile offers access to areas of the Net to its users for a fixed fee per month. So for €5, for instance, a user may be able to use Spotify for the month; he or she can browse the open Internet at night for €10; and it can access DT?s IPTV for €3.20 per DAY. It looks like an a la carte cable company menu and it just breaks every possible rule and/or understanding of the way the Internet should be priced and nurtured.”
While T-Mobile US’s efforts are decidedly less ham-fisted than this, they’re no less of an example of a carrier using arbitrary usage caps to fiddle with the user experience to its own ends. It’s also a prime example of how easily people can be fooled into signing off on neutrality violations under the guise of creative pricing, and how rules need to be very clear in prohibiting this kind of behavior — regardless of whether or not it’s presented under a shiny veneer of purportedly consumer-friendly, ultra-hip paint.