T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) CEO John Legere fired back at critics of Binge On, the carrier's video service, calling them "jerks" who may be using the hot-button net neutrality issue to garner headlines for themselves.
The brash executive took to the company's blog in a video to defend Binge On, denying allegations that it is throttling speeds for video transmissions. Instead, Legere said, the program gives customers control that enables them to reduce their video data consumption by two-thirds.
"There are people out there who are saying that we're throttling," Legere said. "That's a game of semantics, and it's b***s***. What throttling is is slowing down data and removing customer control. Let me be clear: Binge On is neither of those things."
While Legere's definition of "throttling" is debatable, his remarks are a direct response to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which earlier this week claimed T-Mobile's Binge On slows transmission speeds of video from all content providers, not just those who participate in the program. The EFF claims its tests prove that Binge On slows video stream throughput down to 1.5 Mbps, resulting in "stuttering and uneven streaming – exactly the opposite of the experience T-Mobile claims their 'optimization' will have."
Indeed, the EFF said T-Mobile doesn't actually optimize video for mobile handsets or networks whatsoever, other than to slow throughput. EFF's claims follow allegations by YouTube – which isn't part of T-Mobile's zero-rated mobile video offering -- that Binge On degrades the quality of its video.
T-Mobile has consistently denied that it slows the transmission of video for Binge On users, but the carrier failed to respond to multiple requests for comment from FierceWireless earlier this week.
Legere said in the video that customers who want to watch full-quality video can simply switch off the Binge On service and instead incur full data charges.
"Mobile customers often don't want or need full, heavy, giant, video data files," said Legere, adding that customers are watching 12 percent more video since the Binge On program launched in November. "So we built technology to optimize for mobile screens and stream at a bitrate designed to stretch your mobile data consumption."
Legere also echoed comments made by T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert at an investors conference Wednesday, questioning the motives of groups who have criticized its data policies for Binge On users.
"We give customers more choices and these jerks are complaining? Who the hell do they think they are?" Legere asked rhetorically. "I think they may be using net neutrality as a platform to get into the news."
As mobile video consumption continues to soar, Binge On appears to be a win-win for T-Mobile: It is likely to win new customers even as it eases traffic on the carrier's network. But the FCC, concerned that zero-rated data programs may conflict with net neutrality principles, has already asked T-Mobile to explain its policies for mobile data pricing and services. The escalating controversies over Binge On could draw increased interest from regulators.
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