John Legere, T-Mobile US CEO, blasted critics of the company’s Binge On video streaming program, including Google, as the US operator announced 14 additional partners for the service.
“There are groups out there confusing consumers and questioning the choices that we fight so hard to give our customers,” he said.
Binge On, which launched in November, has been in the headlines this week after industry group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued the service, which allows customers to stream video from partners at lower quality without using data allowances, was breaking net neutrality rules.
EFF said that while T-Mobile claims to optimise its partner video streams to a bitrate equivalent to 480p, it had run tests to find Binge On is actually applying this level of quality to all video across its network, and not just its named partners.
Meanwhile, if a stream did not offer a lower resolution option, EFF said tests found the video would stutter and lead to uneven playback.
“Our results show that T-Mobile is throttling video streams, plain and simple,” read a report from the group.
Its findings follow comments from Google-backed YouTube, which said last month the service is throttling and degrading its traffic on the network, even though it has not signed up to take part.
T-Mobile US has said Binge On is open to all video streaming that meets its technical requirements, and in typical fashion, Legere hit back at the criticism in a blog and video post, claiming people are “playing semantics” by saying Binge On is throttling video.
He argued that the customers ultimately held the right to decide whether they wanted to access videos at full resolution, adding that Binge On does not permanently slow down data or remove customer control.
Targeting Google in particular, he said the company “may be using Net Neutrality as a platform to get into the news”.
“As a company that’s a huge fan of a free and open internet, I find that disappointing. At T-Mobile, we’re giving you more video, more for free, and power of choice. What’s not to love?”
While Legere’s response to YouTube, and industry bodies alike, focused on the customer benefits of Binge On, it is unlikely that the issue will go away. The outspoken CEO did not directly address the fact that the service is seemingly also affecting the video of providers not signed up to the platform.
Uptake and interest
For the first time since the launch of Binge On, Legere also provided some information on the service’s uptake. He said customers are now watching 12 per cent more video, with daily average viewership on one particular service spiking 66 per cent among customers not on high speed plans.
Adding to previously the 24 announced partners at launch, including Netflix and HBO, are a number of other high profile partners, including PlayStation Vue and The History Channel. Legere said more than 50 providers have so far shown interest.
US regulator Federal Communications Commission, which seemingly gave Binge On the all clear following its launch, is reportedly due to meet with T-Mobile US and other providers next week to discuss the matter.