T-Mobile Declares It's On 'The Right Side Of History' As It Laughs At Net Neutrality
from the words-no-longer-have-any-meaning dept
While T-Mobile has certainly done some good things for the wireless industry, the company’s ongoing tone deafness on net neutrality isn’t doing the carrier any favors. T-Mobile fought against real net neutrality rules, then, once passed anyway, got right to work trying to find creative ways around the rules using zero rating (exempting only some content from usage caps). When net neutrality advocates and scholars repeatedly pointed out T-Mobile was violating net neutrality and being a bit hypocritical (“we’re edgy and love consumers but not real net neutrality!”), the company dug a deeper hole by attacking groups like the EFF.
Last week T-Mobile upped the ante with new plans that promise “unlimited” data, but are not only more expensive, they throttle tethering, throttle overall consumption at 26 GB, and throttle all video to 1.5 Mbps or 480p. Users who want HD video to actually work correctly can apparently pony up $25 more per month. Emboldened by T-Mobile and a (so far) apathetic FCC, Sprint revealed similar “unlimited” data plans of its own, which throttle all video, games and music to 1.5 Mbps, 2 Mbps, and 500 kbps respectively, unless you pony up another $25 per month.
Groups like the EFF were quick to point out that installing ISPs as middlemen who get to determine how well your services work based on how much you pay in a marginally-competitive broadband market sets a horrible precedent. If regulators allow T-Mobile to charge more money for HD video to work, what stops Comcast from charging you more if you want 4K Netflix streams to work? Or AT&T deciding it can charge you more if you want your Steam games to download at full bitrate? This is a door that, once opened, won’t be easily closed. And once this practice is a standard, it will be abused.
T-Mobile, for whatever it’s worth, continues to be annoyingly tone deaf about the slippery slope it’s dragging the entire industry toward. However bad zero rating was, the act of throttling entire classes of traffic unless you pay your ISP more money is notably worse. Highlighting how video conferencing isn’t throttled but YouTube is, The Verge tried to get T-Mobile to define “video” and “data” but came away stymied:
“I asked T-Mobile for the company?s definition of “data” and a spokesperson said “that?s not something I could give you,” but suggested that the company was on “the right side of history,” and that the goal was to make “unlimited sustainable for the mass market.” That?s an admirable goal! But let?s not dance around the fundamentals of the situation. Net neutrality is the law of the land, and T-Mobile has aggressively pushed the boundaries of net neutrality by manipulating the traffic on its network.”
But again, violating net neutrality principles isn’t the same as violating net neutrality rules, and the FCC’s rules were carved out with numerous exeptions that allow all manner of throttling — provided ISPs claim it’s for the health of the network. That’s why T-Mobile frames this as a matter of “sustainability,” even though it’s really about adhering to basic dictionary definitions and not selling an “unlimited” service if you’re not actually willing to offer it. For a company that markets itself as a pro-consumer alternative to traditional wireless carriers, T-Mobile seems increasingly hell bent on continuing some of the industry’s worst habits.