Binge On! - get your umbrellas out, stuff's hitting the fan.

So we went round and round back in November regarding Binge On! and whether
it was net neutrality. So here's some closure to that...

The EFF did some testing and discovered that what T-Mobile is actually doing
doesn't match what they said it was...

Apparently, John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, doesn't know who the EFF is,
or why they're giving him a hard time.

"Part B of my answer is, who the fuck are you, anyway, EFF?" Legere said. "Why
are you stirring up so much trouble, and who pays you?"

/me makes popcorn....

And I'm sorry, but this line from Legere had me raging at my screen:

"There are people out there saying we’re “throttling.” They’re playing semantics! Binge On does NOT permanently slow down data nor remove customer control. Here’s the thing, mobile customers don’t always want or need giant heavy data files. So we created adaptive video technology to optimize for mobile screens and stream at a bitrate designed to stretch your data (pssst, Google, that's a GOOD thing)."[1]'re "optimizing" the bitrate of video traffic for mobile by lowering it to 1.5 mbps, but don't worry: it's not "throttling". And you're accusing the "other guys" of playing semantics? Beside pure marketing doublespeak, I don't even know what actual logic he's using here. Apparently it's only "throttling" if it *permanently* slows down traffic, and BingeOn somehow doesn't do that (besides what the EFF is putting forward)? Is it because even though it's enabled by default, there is still an "off" switch, and therefore user choice is maintained (though probalby not obvious to most consumers)?

Listen: I have no issue with doing shaping or traffic prioritization or whatever as your customer asks for it; we offer that as an option to customers to get the most out of their connections and I'm sure many of you do as well. But:

1) Those are done at the request of the customer, not opt-out.
2) Be honest about what you're doing.

T-Mobile seems to be trying to spin this as if they have some magical technology that will re-encode streaming video on the fly to 480p, when really they're just ID-ing video and rate-limiting it (when it comes to video that doesn't match their technical requirements doc and doesn't do ABR down to 480p on the sending side). Fine: just getting decent accuracy on various edge cases of identifying video traffic isn't trivial, so kudos, but don't blow smoke about it. If Legere has some info about how this truly at a technical level is not just rate limiting, then show us that info. Yes: I've read the "Content Provider Technical Requirements" doc[2] that talks about adaptive bitrate tech on the sending side:

"The content provider will provide video over T‐Mobile’s network using adaptive bit rate technology in which the server sending streaming video content will automatically adapt video resolution of the stream based on the capabilities of the data connection or as otherwise indicated by the T‐Mobile network."

But, that's for the content folks that are participating in the BingeOn setup for zero-rating. The EFF's data indicates that if you're just a random video stream (or video media type file), you get rate limited.

With all of this said, I appreciate the challenge of getting something like this implemented at scale without going opt-out. T-Mo is going for a PR win as well as, let's be honest, reducing network utilization by reducing the bitrate of video crossing the network, but it's *highly* unlikely that you're going to get enough critical mass in an opt-in effort to pull it off. To T-Mo's credit, they're making the opt-out quite simple, but let's be clear that this is not a net neutral move if we go by the commonly accepted definitions:

"The idea is that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites, and platforms equally."[3]

"Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication."[4]

The majority of the "fight" to date has been about the source and origin of the traffic, so the discussion often leans that direction, but there is no question that BingeOn works to identify a specific application or type of content (video) and then treats it differently from other traffic.

"So why are special interest groups -- and even Google! -- offended by this? Why are they trying to characterize this as a bad thing?"

Because you're drawing a box within which people have to play, which puts shackles on innovation. For traffic destined for a BingeOn enabled T-Mo customer (which is everyone by default unless they opt out), content providers can choose to:

1. Meet the technical requirements (possibly at real cost to them to adapt their infrastructure) and do adaptive bitrate streaming, and get capped at 480p but be zero-rated.
2. Do nothing, don't get zero-rated, and get rate-limited to 1.5 mbps.

Part of the concern from the net neut crowd is that creating little boxes like this hampers innovation and the development of novel new applications. BingeOn in and of itself may not directly curtail innovation, but the concern is that everyone can create their own little box with which content providers need to cooperate/interoperate. Already in the BingeOn technical requirements doc, there is reference to basically a business relationship (e.g. "To ensure a good customer experience, any changes to a content provider’s streaming formats and/or mechanisms that could impact T‐Mobile’s ability to include the provider’s content in the offering must be communicated to T‐Mobile in advance"). Do we really want a situation where content providers need to establish direct relationships with any edge provider that runs a similar setup to BingeOn in order to ensure their traffic doesn't get squashed or degraded?

My gut says that most edge operators wouldn't have an issue with the practice of traffic prioritization or rate limiting as requested by customers (e.g. prioritize my VoIP traffic; cap offsite backup or replication traffic). But those are explicit customer-initiated requests. I think it is legitimate to express concern when that type of traffic classification and differential treatment is applied en masse. T-Mo (or at least Legere) are pandering to "the little guy" and dismissing legitimate reports as "bullshit" in a bunch of handwaving and PR. Let's have an honest conversation about this, including who all stand to benefit and where there is legitimate harm or cause for concern.

On one hand I want to give Legere some credit for addressing the publicity
himself. On the other hand, he sounds like a complete fool doing it. I wish
I would've been on Periscope at the time.

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So we went round and round back in November regarding Binge On! and whether
it was net neutrality. So here's some closure to that...

The EFF did some testing and discovered that what T-Mobile is actually doing
doesn't match what they said it was...

Apparently, John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, doesn't know who the EFF is,
or why they're giving him a hard time.

"Part B of my answer is, who the fuck are you, anyway, EFF?" Legere said. "Why
are you stirring up so much trouble, and who pays you?"

/me makes popcorn....

I don't know what people have been smoking, but I'd like to set the
record straight, once and for all.

T-Mobile US said that ALL video will be affected from day 0!

Here's my comment on

2015-11-11: «Didn't T-Mobile say that all videos will automatically go
at 480p from that point on? If so, what's really the point of an extra
step, you know, of the service explicitly "applying" to participate?»

I've taken the time to find the source material that must have made me
make such a comment, and, I FOUND IT!

Los Angeles, California — November 10, 2015


Powered by new technology built in to T-Mobile’s network, Binge On optimizes video for mobile screens, minimizing data consumption while still delivering DVD or better quality (e.g. 480p or better). That means more reliable streaming for services that stream free with Binge On, and for almost all other video, it means T-Mobile Simple Choice customers can watch up to three times more video from their data plan. And, as always, T-Mobile has put customers in total control with a switch to activate or deactivate Binge On for each line in their My T-Mobile account. Binge On is all about customer choice.

Here it is again, the relevant bits:

for almost all other video, it means T-Mobile Simple Choice customers can watch up to three times more video from their data plan

Those words have certainly been there since at least 2015-11-11!


Just like the rest of the increases in ARPU and other metrics.
Unlimited 4G didn't just have the tethering bucket increased from 7GB
to 14GB, but the price went from 80$ to 95$, too. (And that doesn't
include the earlier increase from 70$ to 80$, either.)

Oh, and, to answer EFF's question on why it's enabled by default:

Since it's launched in November, we've learned customers were watching 12% more video.

It is not explicit that "12%" refers to a minute-based metric, but
that's most certainly what was meant.

Now, compare this with the 66,6% savings by throttling all video to
1.5Mbps, so that "customers can watch up to three times more video",
and the net effects of unlimited binge on become quite clear (and
quite counter-intuitive to a naive guess on the matter).

That said, I have to say I'm disappointed with him going against his
own consumers this time around. The only truth from his video is that, indeed, if the Dumb and
Dumber would have implemented this functionality first, the carriers
indeed would have found a way to charge extra for it!


I'm not certain that most consumers notice or care. How many people can notice 480p vs. 720p vs. 1080p on a 4" display? Now how many will notice the buffering or larger bills?

You are assuming a 4” display.

First, lots of phones these days (mine include) larger than 4” displays.

Even more phones, again, mine included, have HDMI output.

And you better believe I notice the difference on a 32” TV in a hotel room.


Mine has a 6" display and I know it's rare... because people always comment on how big it is.

Many\most do HDMI out. About 14 people know about it. Maybe 4 actually do it with any level of regularity. Opt out if it's an issue for you.

You're assuming that people are only using phones with their SIM - those that use a mifi dongle and thus view content on a tablet or laptop will notice

We could rate limit traffic from YouTube to 1.5mbps and let the adaptive streaming knock the steam to 480p bit our users with 100mbit connections might wonder why they cannot view 720p or 1080p - and why spicy they view such content - its like putting back the web and online video services 5 years. Where does it stop? 320x240 ?

Bulk data and background update processes are things that could possibly by throttled - after all, that's pretty much what QoS does. Most of my phone data is google play software updates and on woes phone ios and itunes store updates - it doesn't matter if the update ticks along in the background. Audio and video need to be good.


Valid points.

The best solution for everybody is the solution most consumers are adverse to, which is usage based billing. Granted, many times the providers have shot themselves in the foot by making the charges punitive instead of based on cost plus margin. Reasonable $/gig for everybody! :slight_smile:

I'm tempted to make an analogy to health care, insurance, and universal
coverage, but I'll abstain.

Usage based billing alters the typical hockey stick graph: the 10% of users
using 80% of the bandwidth are otherwise subsidized by the long tail.

As an ISP, usage-based billing is more sensible, because I would no longer
have to stress about oversubscription ratios and keeping the long tail
happy. But usage-based models are more stressful for the consumer; I think
I disagree that it's the best model for everybody.

Let me be a consumer advocate for a moment. One of the reasons consumers
are averse to usage-based billing is that the tech industry has not put
good tools into their hands. While it is possible to disable automatic
updates, set Windows 10's network settings to "metered", and micromanage
your bandwidth, in general:

The Internet (from the non-eyeball side) is designed around a free-feeding
usage model. Can you imagine if the App store of your choice showed two
prices, one for the app and one for the download? The permission-based
model on Android would have requests like, "This app is likely to cost you
$4/week. Is this OK?"

I don't know all the reasons that satellite provider Starband shut down,
but that was a usage-based billing market; and it would never have been a
'reasonable' $/gig. I'm working to step into the hole they left, and
you're right that customers don't want a usage-based model to replace it.

In addition, let's say I know of an ISP that makes 10% of its revenue from
overage charges. Moving to a purely usage-based model would lower ACR, as
it would have to charge a more reasonable price/gig; that top 10% of users
won't replace the lost revenue. So even providers may have little incentive
to change models, particularly if they have a vested interest in inhibiting
the growth of video or usage in general.

It's not just video. Per comments on Techdirt, this also affects other
traffic being transmitted via HTTPS, if that traffic is sufficiently large
and/or persists for a sufficient period of time.


My point on usage based billing isn't meant to stifle anything, but to provide equitable service to everyone at a fair price. $10/gig certainly isn't a fair price for almost any network. People pay variable rates for water, electricity, gas, food, etc., etc.

Is it necessarily a bad thing if people stop to think about what their usage costs?

The normal consumer has no way to correlate what the "real" cost is as the providers keep their "costs" for bandwidth, transit, etc. proprietary secrets and always lie to the consumer and muddy the picture of what the ISP actually pays for regarding bits!

Additionally, until there can be proper tools that are "certified" for measuring usage, then usage based billing will never be viable.

Robert Webb

The cost to the provider is irrelevant to the consumer. Cost to the consumer is all the consumer should be concerned with. Competition, industry and media would serve as the barometer to sensible or ridiculous pricing.

There are a myriad of ways to measure usage. I'm not sure there are any certifications for any other billing relating to the Internet, so why start now?

(My ISP doesn't charge for usage and I don't intend to until the industry makes that shift. I'm just debating this side.)

Unfortunately when it comes to "competition" in the wireless world, even though there are multiple providers, the consumer will always be gouged given the attitude of today's providers to just follow what the other does. In my opinion, kind of a in the public eye form of collusion. So there will never be a true competition based market in the wireless given the current players.

There should be certifications for measurement is that is what my bill is going to be based on as a consumer. My power meter, gas meter, water meter, etc. get replaced every so often for calibration and the particular utility will come out and swap or test on site if I think there is an issue.

Unfortunately, providers like Comcast, yes, I know they aren't wireless, but their usage meter is a joke and a proprietary based joke at that. I do not think I have ever seen anyone from Comcast willing to describe exactly how their meter works and what is and is not counted towards usage. I am not a wireless expert, but my guess is that it would be even more difficult to accurately track usage on wireless given the portable nature.

(In my area, luckily, my landline ISP doesn't charge or have caps either. But my wireless carrier has caps. And given the data hungry phones these days in which a lot of the data cannot be controlled by the user, then I certainly want the technical details of the usage calculation open to me for review.)

Robert Webb

Bytes uploaded and\or downloaded. That's all that should matter. Initiated by you or not.

I have never seen or heard of any utility meters being replaced or calibrated. I suppose they should upon reasonable demand, but I've never seen it regularly done anywhere.

So you are all for supporting having to pay for data the bloatware programs, installed by most all providers, which most consumers do not want or use? When providers start putting out equipment that has the pure phone OS installed, not the bloatware laden crap that is sold today, then I might agree with you a bit more.

But we all know from the history of providers that they will never provide a reasonable per byte cost.

Everywhere I have lived, providers will come out and replace meters. Some do it better then others, especially if you are seeing anomalies in usage. In the case of normal utilities though, you can pretty much judge your usage. However with internet based per byte billing, one never knows what is going on under the hood of the device in places where the user has zero access to.

Robert Webb

In article <1725530149.7756.1452359589375.JavaMail.mhammett@ThunderFuck> you write:

Bytes uploaded and\or downloaded. That's all that should matter. Initiated by you or not.

As should be obvious to people on NANOG, of all places, mobile
networks and fixed networks are different. On a mobile network, every
bit of infrastructure you use other than your phone is shared and
tends to be heavily used. Metered usage makes economic sense,
although it's well documented that users hate it and would rather pay
for a fixed bundle even if on average metered would be cheaper.

On fixed networks, a significant chunk is unshared (such as the wire
to your house) and while there may be hotspots, there tends to be a
lot of slack capacity within the network. That means that fixed
network traffic outside of peak times literally costs the network

I have never seen or heard of any utility meters being replaced or calibrated. I suppose they should upon
reasonable demand, but I've never seen it regularly done anywhere.

Now you have. When I was municipal water commissioner, one of our
annual tasks was to buy new meters to swap for the oldest ones. Water
meters have a lot of moving parts and when they get old, they tend to
underreport usage.


You want to be the one explaining to your customer that the reason they
got charged for 20G of unexpected transfer was because their 3 Windows 8
machines each downloaded Windows 10 without telling them?

At least Microsoft would get heat for unsolicited downloads. Why does Microsoft (allegedly) think they can download (unwanted or at least unsolicited) software to unsuspecting users computer, just to upsell them, at our expense? 20Gigs per household is a lot of data across a market. If it was metered, there would be at least some accountability.