T-Mobile's Getting Into Cable TV, Where Its Opposition To Net Neutrality May Come Back To Bite It

from the goes-around-comes-around dept

After regulators blocked AT&T’s attempted acquisition of T-Mobile, T-Mobile found a new lease on life and began delivering some much-needed competition to the wireless sector. That added competition brought numerous benefits to consumers, from forcing AT&T and Verizon to bring back unlimited data plans, to the elimination of long-term contracts. And while these companies still try to avoid competing too intently on price, T-Mobile’s disruption has been hugely beneficial all the same.

That said, T-Mobile’s consumer-friendly brand identity (driven by trash-talking CEO John Legere) often only goes so far. The company has consistently opposed net neutrality rules, at one point insisting this opposition would put the company on the “right side of history.” When people questioned T-Mobile’s positions (and a lot of the outright bullshit it used to justify its own zero rating and throttling), Legere doubled down by attacking the EFF.

So it’s interesting to see the company’s announcement this week that it would be jumping into the television business and challenging traditional cable operators. According to T-Mobile, they’ve also acquired a streaming video operator by the name of Layer3TV, whose technology will be used to fuel the new service scheduled to arrive sometime in 2018. While details and pricing are non-existent, Legere quite justly took the opportunity to make fun of the cable industry’s high prices and horrible customer service reputation:

“People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it ? the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That?s where we come in. We?re gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country,? said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. ?It only makes sense for the Un-carrier to do to TV what we?re doing to wireless: change it for good! Personally, I can?t wait to start fighting for consumers here!?

But T-Mobile’s previous disdain for net neutrality rules could easily come back to bite it. T-Mobile did state the service will be offered over both wireless and the fixed-line broadband networks of industry giants like Comcast. And with net neutrality rules set to be destroyed this week, there will soon be nothing stopping Comcast from using any number of tricks to make T-Mobile’s entry into the market more difficult.

Without net neutrality rules there’s about a million ways Comcast could harm T-Mobile TV, based entirely on things broadband ISPs have already done. Comcast could let its interconnection points congest forcing T-Mobile to pay significantly more money just for packets to reach Comcast customers without delay. If that doesn’t work, Comcast could use its arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps to penalize T-Mobile’s new offering while letting Comcast’s own services through untouched (aka zero rating). T-Mobile’s service could also be throttled or deprioritized, while deeper-pocketed competitors pay to get preferential treatment.

And that’s all just things Comcast is on record having already done. With no net neutrality rules in place, and the FCC and FTC poised to be little more than rubber stamps for entrenched telecom duopolies, there’s really no limit to the “creative” approaches incumbent ISPs will take to protect their turf. Of course since T-Mobile helped enable this with its opposition to net neutrality, it surely won’t mind as companies like Comcast do everything in their power to harm T-Mobile’s TV efforts while driving up operating costs via a rotating array of unnecessary troll tolls, right?

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Companies: comcast, layer3tv, t-mobile

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Comments on “T-Mobile's Getting Into Cable TV, Where Its Opposition To Net Neutrality May Come Back To Bite It”

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Anonymous Coward says:

a Clearwire-like service?

How does T-Mobile plan on doing this? Since this is a wireless provider, one possible way would be to offer some kind of wireless “cable” or internet service, perhaps similar to Clearwire, the extinct provider once known for its distinctive towering wireless “modems”.

Or do they expect to lease “fast lanes” in existing broadband providers — or expect them to give T-Mobile a free ride through their service instead of throttling them out of existence?

Standalone video streaming is one business model in which competition does not lead to lower prices, because it means these many streaming services will be bidding up prices for access to “fast lanes” that ISPs are now free to auction off.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: a Clearwire-like service?

If I were one of their engineers, this is what I’d push for:

Since Comcast/Verizon/Charter will quickly find a way to fuck with our traffic AND blame us for it: don’t play that game. We’ll lose. So write off the idea of real-time streaming. Yes, this also means writing off the customers who absolutely MUST have it, but we were never going to be able to support those customers anyway.

Instead, deploy a CDN – but not the way it’s usually done. Sure, have the datacenter servers but also have CDNs at customer endpoints. Little cheap boxes with lower power requirements, WiFi, video out, web interface, etc….and an encrypted tunnel to the CDN nodes in data centers. Customer wants Die Hard XIV? Have them order it, give them an ETA as to when it’ll be ready, then download it but NOT at real-time speeds because it doesn’t need to be. Also: make downloads into the local CDN node via T-Mobile mobile network free and uncapped. Also: give a discount if the download is scheduled for middle-of-the-night local time. Also: give a discount if the download is scheduled farther in advance (since this allows for a slower download).

Using a VPN, particularly one whose far endpoint moves around, makes it harder for ISPs to screw with traffic. Yes, there’s still the data cap issue. Yes, they may eventually discover all the CDN nodes and throttle them. Yes, this architecture has its problems. (I know.) But at least it avoids starting a fight on a battleground that belongs to the opposition. And it means that when someone decides to watch content, it’s streaming locally, which in turn means that it should not exhibit any of the issues associated with real-time streaming over the Internet. (Note: you can watch the content without an Internet connection. Which in turn means that if you want to cut the cord entirely and rely on T-Mobile’s cell network for downloads, you can.)_

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if there is going to be a big boom for VPNs. They can sell a net neutral / private service because the connection through your ISP is encrypted and cant really be messed with. Maybe ISPs can just slow VPNs, but at some point the public will win Net Neutrality if the ISPs go too far in blocking/throttling connections.

Anonymous Coward says:

Do people really think that VPNs will be the silver bullet that slays ISP throttling, as if they won’t simply throttle all encrypted traffic?

That was my situation years ago, and I never could get an answer for why encrypted traffic (specifically VPN and NNTPS regardless of ports used) was only a fraction of the speed of unencrypted traffic.

Brent says:

Re: throttling encrypted traffic

Most of the sites I visit automatically use https, so much of the traffic will be encrypted. Of course, the ISP’s could still simply throttle encryption so their data mining can be easier and more effective. For an extra fee, you could use https your privacy isn’t important to the ISPs. There are so many ways that ISPs can monetize their control of the last mile.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

I think you guys miss the point of all of this.

You want to be able to say the consumer has choice? Offer them choice. Just have everyone already in the telecom world offer a selection of similar products at similar prices, peer well with each other to assure good service levels, and stop worrying. Suddenly, the consumer has a dozen “cable” providers to go along with the dozens of IP phone offerings and so on, and suddenly you all look like the good guys.

You don’t have to throttle anyone else, because everyone else is giving you access to their customers as well.

Outsiders try to play? Just make sure your peering doesn’t favor them and call it a day. Crappy delivery will kill them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That statement is so wrong that either you are grossly ignorant, or you are a paid shill for the cable companies. If the offer IPTV as a special service it is a cable service, while Netflix is a competing product offered via different service over the Internet.

Oh and the localloop is what connects the end points to the larger network.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

But whoever controls the local loop controls how well your service is delivered to your customers, and without net neutrality. Therefore without net neutrality, if a competitor controls the local loop they can restrict the data flows in a way that damages the experience of users competitors to make their own product much more attractive.

That is the core issue at the heart of the net neutrality fight, the local loop owners trying to make their parallel cable offerings, and any IP TV service they have the most attractive or even the only viewable TV option.

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Yes, and read my post.

Let’s say Comcast and AT&T want to play in each others neighborhoods. They both know they are suffering from cable cutters, so they each agree to offer IP TV style service in each others coverage areas. They work out the peering and such so that they have no problem with the “local loop” issue, because they are both supporting each other’s products.

Now, was this bad for the consumer? You suddenly have twice as many options for viewing. Is this bad?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

That becomes a real problem when new players want to offer video streaming services, in that they have to negotiate with local loop owners to be able to serve their potential audience.
So you proposal is not good for the consumer because it not only does it favor the cable companies, it allows them to block the likes of Netflix and Hulu, and totally freeze new players out of the market.

Do you really want to turn the Internet into cable TV V2, and hand control over to those monopolistic corporations?

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Again, you miss the point.

First off, remember that streaming video is currently the most popular use for the internet. 70% of peak US prime time traffic is streaming video. Consumers have spoken, this is how they want to use the internet.

Second, nobody is saying that video streaming services will have to negotiate with anyone to be able to deliver their product. What I said is that Verizon may deal with a Comcast or similar so that they can offer their products on each others systems with dedicated peer to assure timely delivery. NN would have forbidden that.

“Do you really want to turn the Internet into cable TV V2, and hand control over to those monopolistic corporations?”

Nope, and I am not even suggesting it. Rather I am pointing out that for consumers (who want streaming video so much) certain restrictions of NN actually are hurting rather than helping. More choice for consumers is always a good thing.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

You are conflating two different things. Peering and NN have absolutely nothing in common although moving carriers to Title II would allow services outside of the network to go after the ISPs if they deliberately refused to solve peering chokepoints.

You know, like Verizon did with Netflix by not upgrading a piece of equipment that Netflix offered to pay for them even if it would make service better for their customers when accessing all other services as well. You may not remember but the issue magically fixed itself when Title II came in.

It becomes a NN issue if the telcos deliberately choke their competitors via such peering shenanigans while offering the same service in their own internal networks (that don’t need the peering). Forging peering agreements to better manage large chunks of traffic falls within network topography (like the CDNs you love to confuse with NN as well).

So, no, NN wouldn’t have forbidden that as long as the packets are treated equally and the only limits are physical (ie distance).

“Nope, and I am not even suggesting it. Rather I am pointing out that for consumers (who want streaming video so much) certain restrictions of NN actually are hurting rather than helping. More choice for consumers is always a good thing.”

Yes, you are suggesting it. NN rules do not prevent any of such competition. It actually fosters competition by forcing the owners of the infrastructure to play fair and neutral.

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