In a letter to T-Mobile customers, CEO John Legere apologised to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit advocacy group, for foul-mouthed comments he made about the organisation last week.
The EFF had asked him a question about the nature of T-Mobile’s new Binge-On video service. The EFF has claimed that Binge-On violates principles of net neutrality by throttling (slowing down) video from all companies. even if they’re not participating in the service.
Legere responded curtly, then asked “who the **** are you anyway EFF? Why are you stirring up so much trouble, and who pays you?”
As it turns out, a lot of people do. EFF stands for Electronics Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to, “defend free speech online, fight illegal surveillance, advocate for users and innovators, and support freedom-enhancing technologies.”
After admitting he has an off-the-cuff style, which he won’t apologise for, he said: “I will however apologise for offending EFF and its supporters. Just because we don’t completely agree on all aspects of Binge On doesn’t mean I don’t see how they fight for consumers. We both agree that it is important to protect consumers’ rights and to give consumers value. We have that in common, so more power to them.”
In addition to the apology Legere clarified the terms of T-Mobile’s “Binge-On” service, which launched this past November. Here are the highlights.
- Binge-On uses a proprietary T-Mobile built technology to detect video streams, determine their eligibility, then scales the video to 480p.
- If the video is coming from a Binge-On partner, the streamed video doesn’t count against the customer’s data cap.
- 38 partners have signed up to be Binge-On partners, 50+ have shown interest in becoming one.
- Binge-On is enabled by default, for all customers.
- Non-eligible video will also be downsampled to 480p, “stretching” a customer’s data to them to stream up to 3X more video per month.
Even with this clarification Legere didn’t address the EFF’s main question: How does Binge-On work, exactly?
In a study published on Jan., 6th the EFF tested video streaming under four conditions; each test was conducted with Binge-On enabled and disabled. The results in all four tests showed that even under near-exact conditions T-Mobile lowered the phone’s data speed to 1.5mbps when Binge-On is enabled.
One of the EFF’s tests didn’t involve a video file, and even given that circumstance the download was slower, although not as severely. Digging further into T-Mobile’s claim that video was optimised, the EFF’s tests determined that no optimization took place, only throttling. This affected the playback and fidelity of videos whose servers couldn’t adapt to a lower bit-rate, producing noticeable artifacts.
After achieving these test results, the EFF reached out to T-Mobile, who admitted there wasn’t any video optimization taking place, but refuted that Binge-On’s data speed manipulation should be considered throttling. In his open letter John Legere ignores T-Mobile’s admission to the EFF by saying that by enabling Binge-On all video will be optimised.
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