T-Mobile's new unlimited data plan is drawing the ire of net neutrality proponents

(Photo credit: Flickr user Mike Mozart)

T-Mobile is once again coming under fire from net neutrality proponents.

The nation’s third-largest carrier garnered headlines last week when it introduced a new unlimited data plan starting at $70 for a single line. T-Mobile One, as the plan is branded, caps video delivery to 480p, just as its zero-rated Binge On offering does.

Customers hoping to view higher-quality video must pay an additional $25 per line. And that appears to violate net neutrality guidelines, Jeremy Gillula of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) told The Daily Dot.

"From what we've read thus far it seems like T-Mobile's new plan to charge its customers extra to not throttle video runs directly afoul of the principle of net neutrality,” Gillula told the Dot. Gillula also cited the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which “explicitly said that ISPs can’t throttle traffic based on its type, or charge customers more in order to avoid discriminatory throttling,” he said.

T-Mobile has gained tremendous momentum over the last two years due in part to the success of zero-rated offerings such as Binge On and Music Freedom, which enable users to access video and music from specific providers without incurring data charges. But the carrier has been criticized for downgrading the quality of Binge On to ease the load on the network as well as for requiring content providers to meet certain technical standards to participate.

Barbara van Schewick, a Stanford law professor and net neutrality expert, filed a report earlier this year with the FCC claiming Binge On "harms competition, innovation and free speech." The program likely violates the FCC's net neutrality rules, she argued, because its technical requirements "categorically exclude" some content providers.

T-Mobile has argued that Binge On "is about customer choices – not limitations," noting the program's popularity. Company executives have said repeatedly that users on qualifying data plans watch more than twice as much video than they did before it launched.

Other wireless carriers have been criticized over net neutrality concerns as well. Both Verizon and AT&T offer sponsored data, for instance, enabling content providers or other companies to pay the cost of delivering data over their networks. Such policies give those companies an unfair advantage over smaller content providers who can’t afford to pay the freight, some have argued.

The FCC voted last year to codify new net neutrality regulations for wireless and wireline networks, and it claims it is monitoring zero-rated data services and evaluating them on a case-by-case basis. The commission has yet to intervene in carriers’ policies regarding zero-rated data, however.

For more:
- see this Daily Dot report

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Binge On, FreeBee Data push the envelope on net neutrality, but the FCC just 'monitors'
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