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YouTube now joins T-Mobile’s Binge On programme; Net neutrality?

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YouTube and Google Play Movies will now be participating in US-based carrier T-Mobile’s Binge On programme, the company announced on its public policy blog. YouTube’s participation in the programme comes after a few months after it criticized T-Mobile for reducing video quality on YouTube to 480p in order to reduce data usage on its networks.

In November,  T-Mobile introduced its zero rating platform for video services as they use a lot of T-Mobile’s bandwidth. Netflix, Hulu and HBO signed on the platform where these services could stream without any data caps or throttling. At the time, YouTube chose not to be part of the programme.

“Over the last several months, we raised these concerns with T-Mobile, and they’ve heard us and others who provided similar feedback,” Google said on the blog. It added that T-Mobile worked to improve notice and choice for users. T-Mobile would better clarify to participants what optimization means, and what the impacts of turning on or off Binge On will be.

The mobile carrier made it easier to turn the service on or off. Instead of having to click through a series of menus, consumers can turn it off with an SMS short code, with two clicks from the T-Mobile app, or with one click from the T-Mobile website. “Any user can toggle Binge On off and on, and the change will take effect within minutes — which significantly improves the user experience,” Google added.

Another change T-Mobile made was that it gave video providers more information and choice about programme participation. Prior to this Google said that “video services were not given a choice about whether their streams would be managed by T-Mobile if they did not join the programme.” Now, video services meeting traffic-identification requirements will be able to opt-out, which means that T-Mobile will no longer modify their streams.

Also read: Some thoughts on T-Mobile zero rating select video services

Net Neutrality concerns

It’s worth remembering that Google CEO Sundar Pichai had expressed strong support for net neutrality during his visit to India.

“Net neutrality has been hugely critical to the way Internet has developed. The Internet has been a level playing field and I don’t think we would be here today and have a strong, free and open Internet without net neutrality. We’re very committed to it. Google benefitted a lot from having strong net neutrality in place.”

It is sad to see the biggest video service on the Internet getting arm twisted to join a service which violates the spirit of net neutrality.

Zero rating is the practice of making a specific set of services free of data charges for users and is a violation of Net Neutrality. It allows a carrier to play kingmaker for a service. We had already pointed out that T-Mobile’s zero rated programme (or any zero rating plan for that matter) would effectively work as a cartel. We saw the same situation when Times Internet and its affiliate publications said that it would remain on board Free Basics (now defunct in India) as long as their competitors were also there. If one competitor chooses to come on board, there will be little choice but to also follow, else lose out on a potentially large user base.

Disclosure: MediaNama has taken a strong position in favor of Net Neutrality and against price discrimination.

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