As Its CEO Continues To Claim It Doesn't Throttle, T-Mobile Spokesperson Confirms Company Throttles

from the guys,-guys,-guys... dept

The T-Mobile throttling saga is getting worse. Their PR people have totally stopped responding to me after I pointed out how they were lying about their claims to be "optimizing" video when they were really throttling. And then the company's CEO, John Legere insisted that claims that T-Mobile was "throttling" were bullshit (and then, bizarrely attacked EFF).

But, at the same time, a nameless T-Mobile spokesperson told Wired that, yes, just as all the tests have shown and just as we explained to you on Monday, T-Mobile is deliberately slowing down the delivery of non-partner videos, which by any definition (other than T-Mobile's) is throttling:
T-Mobile customers who activate the company’s controversial Binge On video service will experience downgraded internet connection speeds when viewing videos on YouTube or other sites that don’t take part in Binge On, a T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed today. They’ll also experience slower speeds when trying to download video files for offline use from websites that do not participate in Binge On, at least until the customer deactivates the service.
Of course, even that statement is wrong. It's not for "customers who activate" Binge On. T-Mobile automatically activated it for everyone, and then let you call in to customer service to deactivate it.

But the way that T-Mobile tries to insist that this is not throttling is now to argue that because users can turn it off that's why it's not throttling. Yesterday we noted that tricky sleight of mouth when Legere added an unnecessary clause to the definition of throttling. Here's John Legere's statement yesterday:
What throttling is is slowing down data and removing customer control. Let me be clear. BingeOn is neither of those things.
And again, there are two major problems with this statement: (1) As his own company's spokesperson is now admitting, yes, they absolutely do slow down the data and (2) "removing customer control" has nothing to do with the definition of throttling. Especially when they made the initial choice for all customers.

And, just to add to this, let me remind you what a T-Mobile spokesperson told me via email just a couple of weeks ago:
Using the term “throttle” is misleading. We aren’t slowing down YouTube or any other site. In fact, because video is optimized for mobile devices, streaming from these sites should be just as fast, if not faster than before. A better phrase is “mobile optimized” or “lower resolution.”
And yet now the company is admitting that they are, in fact, slowing down YouTube, not "optimizing" it or making the resolution lower. As I said at the time, T-Mobile is flat out lying. And now two statements from the company directly contradict each other, and the company's CEO is still insisting that the company isn't doing what the company admits it's doing.

I've seen some corporate snafu meltdowns before, but this is reaching epic levels -- and that's bad news for a company that had spent so much time building up a reputation as a "straight shooter." Good reputations are hard to build, but easy to let slip away....

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  • identicon
    beech, 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:47am

    benefit of the doubt

    I was trying to give tmobile the benefit of the doubt. I thought, maybe there was just a bit of a communication problem between the techies and the execs. That is getting harder and harder to believe as this debacle goes on.

    The correct answer from tmobile in the first place would have been, "huh, that's weird. Let me look into this. " instead they start flat out denying and name calling, therefore losing any goodwill i was prepared to give them

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 10:05am

      Re: benefit of the doubt

      I was trying to give tmobile the benefit of the doubt.

      How come?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 10:36am

        Re: Re: benefit of the doubt

        Exactly! How come?

        I am a T-Moblie customer... I wouldn't give them the benefit of a good shit!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        PRMan, 8 Jan 2016 @ 11:27am

        Re: Re: benefit of the doubt

        John Legere has tried to create an Uncarrier image and has done a lot of positive things to shake up a stagnant industry, gaining millions of new subscribers (like me) in the process.

        That's why.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      nSpectre, 8 Jan 2016 @ 3:38pm

      Re: benefit of the doubt

      "...instead they start flat out denying and name calling,"

      That's how you know it's not just a bit of a communication problem between the techies and the execs. ;)

      Children do the same thing when first learning how to lie, but they usually grow up and out of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steve Swafford (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:50am

    Do you think...

    that Legere will be forced to make another video of him saying he is batshit crazy and was lying his ass off because he had absolutely no clue how his shit functioned with youtube?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 10:07am

      Re: Do you think...

      Should he? Absolutely, and the sooner the better. The bluff's been called, the lie's been seen through, and the sooner he admits that he screwed up in what he said the better off he and his company will be.

      Will he though is the question, and the company's actions so far do not seem to bode well on that front.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 11:01am

        Re: Re: Do you think...

        In politics it is often a good idea to stand as firm as possible on your talking points to show leadership and if you stand your ground, at least some people will continue to believe you. If you make a too blatant mistake, stall or blame someone in your staff!

        It is concerning to see larger business leaders taking on the politicians delusion of grandure. Legere and Zuckerberg are in my opinion playing the wrong game.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 12:28pm

          A "good idea"...

          While standing firm on your talking points may preserve some of your followers in the short term, the rest of us recognize it as manipulative and antagonistic, since it's regarding the people as a collective force to be managed, rather than individuals to be engaged.

          Addressing the grievance and negotiating or solving the problem works in the long term because it demonstrates you're willing to engage the public as persons with their own rights and agency.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 12:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: Do you think...

          And that's why congress has a 10% approval rating. The parties have a monopoly on politics. It doesn't matter if they are known to be liars and thieves and killers. They own the game and there is nothing we can do about. Business is different.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 10:54pm

      Re: Do you think...

      It's possible...

      I happen to know that HR folks at T-Mobile have told him to "watch your mouth" at corporate meetings and PR events. As such, Legdir isn't present in very often in the Seattle area anymore; for fear of HR repercussions and swearing like a sailor.

      I firmly believe by the end of 2017, it's very possible that T-Mobile will have a new CEO; and it shouldn't be difficult for candidates to find Nils Palemann's email address. Nils is the front-door for canidates looking to replace Legdir. Overall, he's a very interesting person; and a former economics professor at NYU.

      Today, he's the only T-Mobile employee in the US with a telekom.de email address. There's certainly time for Deutsche Telekom to find adequate leadership to run the company.

      In addition to this, before Legder ran T-Mobile US, the company had somewhere around 30m customers. Most of those customers stayed with the company because they had no other choice. The customers T-Mobile has been adding are better educated, more astute, and demanding when it comes to being a customer of their a wireless service provider.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2016 @ 8:24am

        Re: Re: Do you think...

        The customers T-Mobile has been adding are better educated, more astute, and demanding when it comes to being a customer of their a wireless service provider.
        T-Mobile called. They want their telemarketer training manual back.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:51am

    "until the customer deactivates the service"

    Which we are hoping they will not notice, and if they do we'll charge them more for all the data so it is win win for the company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:58am

    It's not stealing

    What throttling is is slowing down data and removing customer control. Let me be clear. BingeOn is neither of those things.
    What stealing is is when I take your property without asking and removing your ability to opt out or catch me in the act. Let me be clear. When I took your stuff, I did neither of those things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 10:18am

    Sad thing is, what T-Mobile is doing may be useful

    Throttling a video stream creates backpressure to the video server, forcing the server to reduce the bitrate (and video quality).

    The sad thing is, T-Mobile is correct that this can actually be useful.

    I'm sure many of their customers prefer to use less data (that they pay for) and accept lower video quality in exchange. My (old) eyes can't tell the difference between HD and SD on a tiny phone screen, yet most video servers will push the maximum quality stream that'll fit on the channel.

    The problem is just the lying and confusion about it.

    They want to call it "optimizing" because that sounds way better than "throttling".

    This is a marketing problem - they should have found an honest way to describe what they're doing that doesn't sound bad. (That, and make it trivial for customers to turn it off when they want.)

    They could have called it a "data saver" or "bitrate reduction" (and then describe it accurately).

    Of course the better way is for the phone to tell the server what video quality it wants (as configured on the phone). I assume IETF hasn't gotten to that yet, or this wouldn't be an issue in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 10:29am

      Re: Sad thing is, what T-Mobile is doing may be useful

      The Youtube mobile app, the big one in question, does have a setting to automatically limit mobile data usage. It's right there under General in the settings.

      Any good app has these settings built in. The ones that don't tend to not use large amounts of data.

      This choice should never have been chosen for us.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        OldMugwump (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 11:57am

        Re: Re: Sad thing is, what T-Mobile is doing may be useful

        It's a big pain to have to set limits separately on ever web site you use.

        It should be a single setting in the phone (or more accurately, the web browser).

        Since we don't have that, what T-Mobile is doing is useful.

        To some people, some of the time.

        But I agree - it should have been opt-in. And without the lying.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anon coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 3:38pm

      Re: Sad thing is, what T-Mobile is doing may be useful

      FYI playing with the quality server side actually increases load and cost usually.

      For at least Youtube, the solution is each quality setting is pre-encoded, to prevent on the fly transcoding being required by either party.

      On a home PC it goes, direct play usage around 5-10% in small spikes vs transcoding to from one format to another is around 80-90%

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      canuhearmenow (profile), 11 Jan 2016 @ 1:11am

      Re: Sad thing is, what T-Mobile is doing may be useful

      "The problem is just the lying and confusion about it."
      Yes, 'they' keep wanting to call it 'throttling' because it sounds way worse then 'optimizing'.

      A few years ago, frakken Google wouldn't even let you download an app, let alone play video, over mobile data. Now they insist must be allowed to serve 4K over the same? 'They' need to get their story straight!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 11:04am

    It's one thing for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing. It's another thing entirely for the head to be ignorant of what the hands are up to...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 11:58am

      Re: It's another thing entirely for the head to be ignorant of what the hands are up to...

      In my experience of large firms (anything over about 200 people), that's the norm, not the exception.

      Management is hard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2016 @ 5:58am

        Re: Re: It's another thing entirely for the head to be ignorant of what the hands are up to...

        It is very difficult going to all those damn meetings where they cater coffee and donuts, several people are consistently late and others continuously bicker and moan, it is very difficult to get anything done.

        Compare this to the non management employees who know what the hell is going on and get the job done everyday while at the same time dealing with management screw ups.

        With this in mind, it is difficult to rationalize the huge and pervasive differences in salary and compensation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          OldMugwump (profile), 9 Jan 2016 @ 7:18am

          Re: Re: Re: It's another thing entirely for the head to be ignorant of what the hands are up to...

          Firms don't intentionally throw away money for no reason.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Shane C (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 11:25am

    Binge On was NOT enabled on my account

    I just checked my T-Mobil account, and Binge On was disabled by default. I wonder if that is because I've got a grand-fathered data plan?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      anon y mouse, 8 Jan 2016 @ 4:31pm

      Re: Binge On was NOT enabled on my account

      Under "Plans" mine said it was off. However, under "Profile" it said it was on. Now they both say off and I wonder... will it ever really be off?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 8 Jan 2016 @ 1:29pm

    Open Mouth and Insert Foot

    As Its CEO Continues To Claim It Doesn't Throttle, T-Mobile Spokesperson Confirms Company Throttles

    That's embarrassing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    leehb9 (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 1:33pm

    A Governing Board???

    Does this company have one? It sure looks like there are some folks there that should be out looking for other jobs, at this point!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Phil, 8 Jan 2016 @ 1:41pm

    Not surprising

    I left T-Mobile in 2012 (and recorded the details here http://quakephil.blogspot.com/2012/11/fed-up-with-t-mobile.html )

    3+ years later, I'm glad to be reminded that I have made the right choice. My only question is... why is anyone else still on these big name shitty service carriers?

    Is it like Cable TV, where there's a monopoly in most of the country and no other choice for users?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 2:28pm

      Re: Not surprising

      Is it like Cable TV, where there's a monopoly in most of the country and no other choice for users?

      It's much worse than that. They buy politicians to pass laws against municipalities starting up their own competing services even in places they never intend to service. The largest markets tend to be lucky if service is offered by two competitors, much less many. Lesser populated ("fly-over country") are lucky to have decent DSL if anything and the ISPs are falling all over themselves to force those users onto wireless or abandon them if possible. Add to this these ISPs are often cable providers also so they screw their wireless customers in order to prop up their cable TV divisions.

      Where've you been hiding? :-O

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 10:40pm

    Other Telecoms should use this as advertisement

    I am an AT&T customer and was waiting to jump to T-Mobile when their service is more reliable in my area. T-Mobile has made great changes to increase their speed, network coverage, building penetration, roller over data and other UnCarrier things. But it seems like the policy to activate by default of this controversial policy counters all the claims about how fast their network is now compared to before. It seems like T-Mobile can't handle the masses of people using 1080p video. I think before all the Uncarrier promotions T-Mobile had ample bandwidth for the fourth largest network, but now that they are the third largest network, they need to use Binge On by default to manage their bandwidth to deal with all the people who switched over to magenta.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 9 Jan 2016 @ 6:28am

    Know what I mean?

    You're not listening: we throttle, but we don't throttle, if you know what I mean.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2016 @ 7:15pm

    Great job on covering T-Mobile throttle gate, Mike. John Legere is talking so much bullshit. That guy is such a jerk!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2016 @ 5:05am

    jolly good show...

    carry on

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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