YouTube complains about T-Mobile's Binge On as controversy over zero-rated data offerings heat up

YouTube is complaining that T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) is degrading the quality of its content because of its Binge On service, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Binge On, which launched last month, provides zero-rated video from specific content providers, enabling users to watch without incurring any data charges. But it reduces the resources needed to deliver that video, resulting in lower quality content.  

YouTube isn't included in Binge On due to technical reasons – T-Mobile has said it can't identify YouTube's content on the network and therefore can't flag it as zero-rated – but Alphabet's online video business said its content is being degraded nonetheless.

"Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn't justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent," according to a YouTube spokesman quoted in the Journal piece.

T-Mobile declined to address YouTube's concerns directly, instead claiming that its users "love having free streaming video that never hits their data bucket." And CEO John Legere took to Twitter to note that users can turn Binge On off if they choose, resulting in a higher-quality viewing experience.

The Journal piece follows last week's request by the FCC that T-Mobile, AT&T (NYSE: T) and other service providers meet with the commission to discuss their policies regarding data offerings. Chairman Tom Wheeler told reporters that the commission had sent letters to the carriers and "have a discussion with us about some of the innovative things that they are doing" including zero-rated data offerings.

Opponents of zero-rated data offerings say they enable carriers to boost favored content, which would conflict with the FCC's net neutrality guidelines. Such models could favor powerful media companies at the expense of smaller players, some have argued.

The FCC hasn't moved to address services that may skirt net neutrality principles, but the commission is clearly paying close attention to monitor the data policies of service providers. The concerns of YouTube – which is a major content company that isn't part of the Binge On service – are sure to attract that much more attention from the FCC.

For more:
See this Wall Street Journal story

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