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YouTube: T-Mobile Is Throttling Our Service

As it turns out, YouTube may not be that big a fan of T-Mobile's Binge On offering.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, a YouTube spokesman complained that the wireless carrier's recently launched program, in which T-Mobile streams lower-resolution video and doesn't count video streaming from some services against subscribers' data caps, was affecting the quality of its video.

YouTube's complaint is especially noteworthy since it wasn't among the 24 streaming services that signed on with T-Mobile at Binge On's launch in November. In fact, YouTube was noticeably absent from the November press event where Binge On debuted. "We'd love to have them," T-Mobile chief operating officer Mike Sievert said at the time.

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Still, YouTube told the Journal that its video is coming through degraded to T-Mobile subscribers even though the video sharing service has yet to sign on to the Binge On program. "Reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn't justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent," a YouTube spokesman told the Journal.

When we contacted T-Mobile for comment on YouTube's complaint, a spokesperson directed us to the always lively Twitter stream of John Legere, where the T-Mobile CEO defended Binge On. "Our customers love Binge On," Legere said in a tweet responding to the Journal article. "Streaming video w/o hitting their data bucket AND complete control to turn it on/off at will!"

It's true that T-Mobile subscribers can disable Binge On if they want higher-quality video streams. T-Mobile contends that the lower-resolution video allows users to use up less data even if their wireless plan isn't eligible for free video streaming from participating services. Still, that hasn't stopped some critics of Binge On from accusing the carrier of circumventing the FCC's net neutrality rules that prohibit fast lanes for content providers that pay for better access. T-Mobile says that companies aren't paying to participate in Binge On.

Back in November, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler praised Binge On as "highly innovative and highly competitive." But the regulatory body may be changing its point of view: Last week, the FCC asked to T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast to provide more information about their programs in which select services are exempted from counting against data allotments. In its letter to T-Mobile, the FCC asked the carrier to "make available relevant technical and business personnel for discussions about [Binge On]" by January 15.