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T-Mobile's Binge On Service 'Innovative,' but FCC Chairman Keeping an Eye on It

Critics worried Binge On would benefit some video services -- but not others.


The Federal Communications Commission’s chairman said T-Mobile’s new video streaming service Binge On doesn’t obviously violate net neutrality rules — but the commission is nonetheless keeping an eye on it.

T-Mobile last week introduced Binge On, which allows subscribers to watch video from 24 services — including Netflix, HBO and Hulu — without eating up their high-speed data allotment. That type of feature, known in telecommunications circles as a “zero-rating” plan because the carrier “rates” some content as free, immediately triggered warnings from some (including the editorial writers at the New York Times) who feared it had ominous implications for the free Internet.

Critics worried T-Mobile’s Binge On would influence what services people would use on the Internet — benefitting some, but not others.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler praised the Binge On program as “highly innovative and highly competitive” — the underlying goals of the commission’s Open Internet rules. But he said the commission will nonetheless monitor the service to ensure it doesn’t run afoul of general net neutrality rules that prevent a carrier from interfering with communication between service providers and consumers.

“What we’re going to be doing is watching the Binge On product,” Wheeler said Thursday at commission’s November meeting. “Keeping an eye on it to measure it against the general conduct rule.”

T-Mobile Chief Executive John Legere has maintained that the Binge On service — like its unlimited Music Freedom streaming service — is consistent with the net neutrality principles of a free and open Internet. It doesn’t charge any of the video service providers that participate (it’ll work with any legal service that can meet T-Mobile’s technical requirements) and there is no “fast lane” for certain videos.

Simple Choice customers are free to choose whether or not to use the service, which debuted this week.

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