It's hard not to get swept away by one of T-Mobile’s Un-carrier events, especially with the rambunctious CEO John Legere leading the way while cursing up a storm and riling the crowd up with the changes in mobile we have only dreamed of seeing for years. The guy has remarkable charisma and a personality that most of us can relate to.
Even as a non-T-Mobile customer, I love what the company has been doing. Not only has T-Mobile’s "Un-carrier" initiative done well for the once troubled T-Mobile, but even us plebs using one of those other carriers get to reap some of the benefits. A couple of years ago I couldn’t have imagined living in a world where I don't feel like my soul is bound to a contract for two years. I don't have to jump through hoops to try and finagle my way into an upgrade before two years has passed, either. T-Mobile has made some big strides over just two and a half years, and they just keep making more.
However, not all Un-carrier moves are widely regarded as a good thing. In fact, yesterday’s announcement of Binge On, T-Mobile’s Un-carrier move that removes a large amount of video streaming from data depletion, seemed to spark a healthy mix of happiness and outrage among fellow netizens of the Internet, especially because the same concerns were voiced at the same time T-Mobile’s Music Freedom (the same principle, except with streaming music instead of streaming video) was announced last summer.
You might think to yourself, how could something as simple as free data really make anybody that upset? It’s free data. Why are the haters hating so hard?
When you look into it, though, the cause for concern makes sense: it’s about net neutrality, which is the principle of ISPs being able to provide for all content on the Internet equally, without favoring or blocking certain products or services. In a nutshell, net neutrality isn’t only about ensuring that all consumers are treated fairly, but also making sure that all potential small businesses have an equal chance at success as the bigger companies providing the same services do.
In this scenario, it would seem like T-Mobile is walking a fine line by providing “free” data for some video streaming and some music streaming services. Although T-Mobile says that there are very few hoops to jump through for more services to join Binge On and Music Freedom, there are still some requirements that services do have to meet. But these requirements are technical requirements and not monetary ones. Nobody is paying any money to sponsor anybody for anything here, so it’s still adhering to the rules of “free and open” Internet.
Even then, it’s been brought up that because T-Mobile only glosses over the data usage for streaming music and video services that the other services that do use data are being treated unfairly.
Except for T-Mobile also rolled out Simple Choice Amped, which doubles the amount of data from current Simple Choice plans. So they’re also giving you the data to do whatever else it is you want to do, that might not be Binge On or Music Freedom. But by specifying that certain streaming video and music services won’t count against your data and not specifying what to use your new doubled data buckets for, does it end up becoming a net neutrality issue? Maybe, but not according to T-Mobile, as Legere specifically said that Binge On is "not a net neutrality problem".
As a consumer and as a concerned Internet user, I’m extremely conflicted on whether I want to embrace Binge On (and Music Freedom) or not. As a consumer, I want these things. A lot of people want these things. Streaming video and music are two of the biggest data offenders for me, and many others. But as a concerned Internet user, I don’t want this to negatively shape the future of the Internet in ways of which I can’t predict, if this is even a violation of net neutrality at all.
Overall it seems like a slippery slope. For the modern day T-Mobile customer, it seems like an amazing deal. However, not knowing whether it will positively or negatively impact the future of the Internet, or whether it’s actually a violation of net neutrality or not, is what makes it so conflicting on whether to support or not support the new service.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the issue? Do you feel that Binge On and Music Freedom are actually violating net neutrality principles, or are you in agreement with T-Mobile when they say these services are not a net neutrality issue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!