YouTube Stops Complaining About T-Mobile’s Binge On, Joins Program

Remember all those years ago, when YouTube publicly railed against T-Mobile’s Binge On program, saying the wireless company may have violated FCC rules by throttling all video traffic? And then it led to a war of words, culminating in the T-Mobile CEO cursing out his critics on Twitter and accusing the Electronic Frontier Foundation of taking money from his competition? That was only a matter of weeks ago, but it’s all water under the bridge because YouTube has agreed to be part of Binge On after T-Mo made changes to give content companies more control over streaming quality.

For those who don’t know what Binge On is, it’s a free T-Mobile option that allows customers to stream content from certain video providers without having that data go against their monthly data allotments.

The one catch is that videos streamed by Binge On users can be downgraded so that they don’t take up as much data. YouTube’s beef with T-Mobile was that Binge On downgraded all video streams, regardless of whether or not the content came from a participating site.

T-Mobile countered that it was merely “optimizing” the streams for mobile networks, and that YouTube should have been glad because it meant that millions of T-Mo customers were able to watch more YouTube videos without using up as much data as they would on other networks. But experts at the EFF and elsewhere argued that T-Mobile’s interference with these streams constituted throttling, which would be a violation of the recently enacted net neutrality rules.

But that’s all in the very recent past now. This morning, T-Mobile announced that YouTube joined a slate of other content companies — Google Play Movies, Fox Business, Red Bull TV, FilmOn.TV, among them — as Binge On participants.

According to T-Mobile, that brings the total number of Binge On content partners — which already included biggies like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and HBO Now — to more than 50, accounting for around 70% of the video watched by T-Mobile customers on their wireless devices.

Why The Change Of Heart?

As part of the YouTube/Google deal T-Mobile also announced changes that give both users and all content providers more control over Binge On optimization.

If a non-partner provider doesn’t want their video optimized, they can opt out by notifying T-Mobile. That means the end user will not get the automatic benefit of less data usage, but the video will not be tinkered with.

T-Mobile will also allow partner providers to do the mobile optimization on their end, rather than leaving it up to T-Mobile. That had been one of the big criticisms against Binge On — that mid-stream downgrading didn’t necessarily result in truly optimized video. When active, these new systems will identify Binge On users and send out a stream that is already optimized for the lower data use. As you’d probably guess, YouTube will be one of the first providers to try this.

T-Mobile has also recently made it easier for customers to toggle Binge On off and on, letting them decide when they want to maximize data usage or maximize video quality.

“We think these changes, which T-Mobile is making for all users and video providers on a non-preferential basis, can help ensure that the program works well for all users and the entire video ecosystem,” explains YouTube’s Christian Kleinerman on the Google Public Policy Blog.

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