Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
bingeon, fcc, net neutrality, throttling, video, wireless

Companies:
t-mobile



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.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 6:51am

    All bullshit. They just want to cash a second time on the same service. Caps do absolutely NOTHING to reduce 'congestion'. When these assholes talk about caps ask them "what if everybody decides to use the service at the same time, full speed? It will be fun to watch them twisting reality to explain it. Because the real answer is: if there is no capacity reserved to deal with it you'll still have a problem regardless of the size of the caps.

    But hey, they are quickly turning into the incumbent players. Remember how Comcast is so awesome and advanced because they say so?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2016 @ 6:53am

    Why isn't marketing something as "unlimited" false advertising?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 12:38pm

      Re:

      The mighty asterisk, where they explain in barely visible, only slightly contrasting text buried as deep as they can manage that it's only called 'unlimited' because you never actually lose your connection entirely if you go over your 'allotment', you'll just be throttled down to a speed that makes dial-up look blazing quick.

      Same reason they get away with selling a certain speed for their connections, and then when people don't even get close to the promised amount they trot out the 'well technically you're paying for up to that speed, we never said you'd actually be guaranteed that speed'.

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

  • icon
    TRX (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 6:57am

    The real problem here isn't T-Mobile, it's the FCC, which has been broken for a long time.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 12:42pm

      Re:

      Now now, there's more than enough blame to go around.

      The FCC is to blame for letting companies get away with blatantly dishonest anti-customer moves like this by buying the absurd claims from the companies regarding 'creative pricing' and 'network congestion', while the companies are to blame for pulling the stunts in the first place.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2016 @ 7:41am

    Isn't this fast lanes? Or maybe that because the consumers rather than the content providers are required to do the paying of extra. ..
    A fast lane is a fast lane is a fast lane. It shouldn't matter who pays - content provider or consumer.
    And fast lanes are NN violations.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Aug 2016 @ 7:43am

    Full internet access will be available only for the Lucky few who can pay for it. Those without the funds will have to make do with their ISP's "Blue Light Special" in the zero-rating department.

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

  • icon
    scotts13 (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 8:30am

    Unlimited... "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means!"

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

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 9:05am

    ...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...
    These already happen now.

    Every cable company in the US charges a higher price for HD channels despite broadcasts being mandated to be HD.

    It's laughably insulting to see how an HD movie somehow costs $2 more to stream than an SD movie.

    As far as gaming downloads, they *are* throttled, regardless if you're going through Steam or a console's store.

    The day I see my download speeds match my ISP speeds is the day I wake up and say, "How in the hell did I get to Japan?"

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

    • identicon
      hegemon13, 30 Aug 2016 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      Interesting. I am in one of the rare cities where ISP competition actually exists, as well as Google Fiber. I use one of the smaller cable internet providers here, and I hit or surpass my advertised upload/download speeds nearly 100% of the time. Crazier still is that when I had Time Warner, my experience was the same, despite their national reputation for delivering slower-than-advertised speeds.

      Weird how a little market pressure magically makes the internet pipes run faster...

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

    • identicon
      DH, 30 Aug 2016 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      Every cable company in the US charges a higher price for HD channels

      Not true.

      broadcasts being mandated to be HD.

      Again, not true.

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

  • icon
    PRMan (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 9:26am

    Not on their side anymore

    I was with them as long as Binge On provided an optional customer benefit that could be completely shut off.

    No more. The FCC needs to go after T=Mobile now.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 12:26pm

    Remember...

    Any statement that T-Mobile makes is advertising.

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

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 30 Aug 2016 @ 3:42pm

    The Inscrutable Data Cap

    How T-Mobile came up with the 26G is quite hilarious. From their Aug. 29th press release:

    "Like with every plan, customers who use more data than 97% of our customers (currently over 26 GB per month) will have their usage prioritized below other traffic and may notice slower speeds during times and places of congestion. See T-Mobile.com/OpenInternet for details on data prioritization."

    I bet the 97% would move that data cap a hair or two if 1.5Gb/s bandwidth was available over cell. The real question is would any cellular carrier really want to move the cap higher if the 97% wanted them to.

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

  • identicon
    mark david, 31 Aug 2016 @ 5:57am

    Blame The People

    We dont need regulations, we need a public of people who stop using a service because of its practices. If people put money where their mouths were, we wouldnt need some fake net neutrality at all. Consumers would drive the market, but what we learn is that americans are especially weak when it comes to standing up to criminals and boycotting seems to have been lost. They want the government to do their bidding because they're too busy on facebook posting pictures of their crotch.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 31 Aug 2016 @ 12:53pm

      Re: Blame The People

      Great point, people should protest actions like these by switching service to all the numerous other competitors available.

      Which don't exist in many areas.

      Or are just as bad if not worse.

      Voting with your wallet only really works if there are other choices to switch to, or the product/service in question is one that can be done without, and for many people neither of those are the case when it comes to internet service and who they get it from.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Sep 2016 @ 12:55pm

      Re: Blame The People

      We dont need regulations, we need a public of people who stop using a service because of its practices. If people put money where their mouths were, we wouldnt need some fake net neutrality at all.

      Kind of like, if you don't like air pollution, then quit breathing, huh?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2016 @ 7:55am

    All You Can Eat

    Maybe T-Mobile is trying to prevent this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBCLXZmMQNs

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


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