EFF: T-Mobile's video 'optimization' is just throttling

Researchers don't buy T-Mobile's claim that it's simply fine-tuning videos for small screens.

We wouldn't blame you for doubting T-Mobile's claim that Binge On 'optimizes' mobile video instead of throttling it -- that sounds like a classic euphemism. And it looks like your skepticism may be well-warranted, if you ask the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It recently conducted tests suggesting that the cap-free viewing option throttles every video download and stream to 1.5Mbps, no matter which service you're using or how good your connection might be. While T-Mobile says it's shrinking videos to 480p, the EFF shows that the carrier is simply reducing the bandwidth to make most videos play at 480p. If a service doesn't have a low-bandwidth option, you get stuttering and other hiccups.

It's true that Binge On is still helpful if you like to watch video on your phone and don't want to pay for unlimited data. You can always opt out if you like, for that matter. However, the findings cast doubt on the FCC chairman's claims that the option doesn't violate net neutrality. T-Mobile is throttling all traffic for a certain kind of content, whether or not the providers agreed to it -- and it's independent of network congestion, so the company can't claim that this is necessary. If the FCC takes a closer look and finds something wrong, Big Magenta may have to either switch to an opt-in model or rethink the whole affair.

[Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images]