T-Mobile Still Doesn't Understand (Or Simply Doesn't Care) That Their 'Music Freedom' Plan Tramples Net Neutrality

from the paved-with-good-intentions dept

Back in June we noted how T-Mobile had unveiled a new "Music Freedom" program that exempts the biggest music streaming companies from T-Mobile's usage caps. When introduced at the time, T-Mobile pitched the idea as a huge win for consumers, as you could listen to say -- Spotify -- without worrying about eroding your usage allotments. T-Mobile also insisted that if your favorite service isn't included, you can just Tweet T-Mobile to have it whitelisted for cap exemption. Sounds like a great deal for everybody, right?

Well, no. Imagine you're one of the thousands of smaller streaming services or non-profits arbitrarily deemed too small to get on the cap-exemption list. You're suddenly facing a steeper competitive slope than ever before, given that larger companies' services are excluded from the cap and yours aren't. Whereas T-Mobile should be delivering all bits equally, by injecting themselves into the middle, they've tilted the playing field against small operations and non-profits. Meanwhile, begging the company via Twitter for inclusion is far from a transparent process. Furthermore, in doing this, T-Mobile is quite clearly admitting that the data caps it puts on are artificially low, harming consumers by charging them extra if they happen to use a higher bandwidth service that hasn't buddy'd up with the company.

At the time it was announced, ultra-hip T-Mobile CEO John Legere was "genuinely surprised" by the criticism from neutrality advocates, arguing that because nobody was paying T-Mobile to bypass the caps -- it couldn't possibly be a neutrality violation. Judging from this recent Reddit conversation, many consumers are confused as well, and are quite eager to root against their best self interest. The FCC has also made it clear they think this is simply "creative pricing," and won't be prohibited by the agency's new neutrality rules.

But because consumers, hipsteresque CEOs and regulators don't understand what's happening doesn't make it less true: T-Mobile's idea (and AT&T's similarly-minded sponsored data effort) sets horrible precedents by letting carriers artificially inject themselves into a content and service ecosystem that is healthier with them out of the way. Accept the idea that carriers can use caps in such a discriminatory fashion, and you're opening the door to a world of aggressive and anti-competitive behavior.

This week T-Mobile announced they've added a few more small services like Google Play Music and SoundCloud, bringing the total list of cap-exempt services to 27 (how many streaming music, audio services, radio stations and podcast broadcasts exist in the world again?). Meanwhile, Legere seems no more enlightened as to why setting arbitrary usage limits then exempting only some companies isn't really a good idea, patting himself on the back for being so pro consumer:
"Music Freedom is pro-consumer, pro-music and pure Un-carrier," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. “And today we’re taking another huge step toward our ultimate goal of including every streaming music service in the program. Anyone can play. No one pays. And everyone wins."
Except again, not everybody wins. Does a small independent streaming radio station too little to meet T-Mobile's invisible interest threshold for whitelisted services "win" if their bits are counted against the cap, but the bytes of Pandora aren't? Net neutrality is about carriers getting out of the way, not erecting annoying new arbitrary systems of control and monetization. T-Mobile has made some great, pro-consumer moves of late, but this isn't one of them. The company either doesn't understand that "Music Freedom" tramples all over net neutrality, or they understand this all too well and simply hope consumers are too stupid to notice.

Filed Under: data caps, john legere, music freedom, music streaming, net neutrality, open internet, streaming
Companies: t-mobile


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Gwiz (profile), 1 Dec 2014 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But what if the majority of the society benefits from this legalized theft and does not want it to end? How can the minority which is being trampled upon convince the majority to act against their collective self interest?

    Then the minority loses. Not sure where the problem with that lies. I'm pretty sure Henry Ford and his buddies (the minority) didn't want safe labor laws when they were enacted either, since they would "steal" resources from Ford Motor Co's bottom line.


    Sure I would; rights don't come from laws. Laws are (were?) supposed to be a codification of the negative rights we already possess (e.g. Bill of Rights).

    Legal rights come from laws. Your "natural" right to own property only exists up to the point where you can successfully defend against someone else taking it. Beyond that, all other property rights are legal rights which most definitely come from statutes and case law and are enforced with the might of a government.


    Because you haven't defined what "access" means.

    Yes. I agree that "access" to the internet would need to be defined in more concrete terms. Personally, I think it would along the lines of "access to drinkable water". That doesn't mean that water is free to everyone. It just means that access to water isn't inhibited or denied to anyone and that we, as a society, provide the ways and means to get water for those who cannot afford it.


    Because a good cannot be a right in the moral sense since it would require the forced action of another and coercion violates one's rights.

    Whether it's a good or not has no bearing on that. We require forced action of others that violate their rights all the time. As another example: we force restaurant owners not to discriminate against anyone based on their religion, creed or color. That violates the restaurant owners right to refuse service to whomever they wish, but society has determined that the benefits to society outweigh the restaurant owner's rights.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.