YouTube Finally Joins T-Mobile's Binge On

Senior Editor

YouTube and T-Mobile have patched up their differences over Binge On, as the wireless carrier's subscribers can now stream YouTube videos without it counting against their monthly data allotment.

T-Mobile launched Binge On last year as a way to keep video streaming from eating up too much of its subscribers' data. T-Mobile would modify the video from streaming services that joined Binge On to appear in a lower resolution on subscribers' phones. (T-Mobile said the streams came in at "DVD quality" and allowed users to watch three times the amount of video while consuming the same amount of data.) In exchange, those streams wouldn't deplete subscribers' monthly data allotment. While the service is turned on by default, subscribers can turn Binge On off at will.

YouTube was not among the services to sign on with Binge On last fall, with Google's streaming service even go so far as to complain that Binge On was affecting the quality of its video.

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"We didn’t think it was clear how the program would be implemented for video services that were not included in the 'free streaming' portion of the Binge On program," wrote YouTube product management director Christian Kleinerman in a blog post today (March 17), explaining YouTube's past reluctance to join Binge On. "We also thought users needed more help to understand how the program worked and how to exercise their options."

Those concerns have since been addressed as both YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV have joined Binge On. Along with seven other services added today — including Fox Business and Discovery Go — Binge On now supports more than 50 streaming video services.

What changed YouTube's mind about participating in Binge On? T-Mobile now lets video services opt out, meaning it won't modify their video streams. T-Mobile is also working with video providers who want to handle optimization themselves. "This allows video services to offer users an improved video experience, even at lower data rates, by taking advantage of innovations such as video compression technology, benefiting T-Mobile, their customers, and video providers," Kleinerman wrote.

Binge On has come under fire from some critics who charge that the service violates the spirit of the FCC's net neutrality rules, which attempt to give wireless users access to legal online content without interference from wireless providers. T-Mobile counters that since video providers don't pay to participate in Binge On, the service is in line with net neutrality.

But T-Mobile may be looking to blunt some of the criticism over Binge On by giving subscribers more ways to turn the service off. In addition to managing Binge On through the T-Mobile website, users can flip the switch on the service through a T-Mobile app on their phones. They can also make adjustments by sending messages straight to T-Mobile: #263# turns Binge On off while #266# turns it back on.