T-Mobile's latest program, known as BingeOn, falls into a much wider debate about fairness on the Internet. By using BingeOn — via a setting in your T-Mobile account — you'll be free to surf more online video more cheaply. The streaming services won't count against your data cap, leaving you more data for browsing other Web sites or using other apps.
Sounds like a great deal, right? But what T-Mobile is doing in the United States has drawn negative attention from some quarters. Exempting specific services from data caps risks giving those services a leg up over other businesses, particularly if they've paid for better treatment. T-Mobile says that isn't the case here, as its commercial partners simply had to make sure they were compatible with the network's streaming technology, not fork over a toll.
As of Tuesday, there were still a number of notable video services missing from BingeOn, such as YouTube and Facebook videos.
Consumer advocates took aim at T-Mobile after its announcement Tuesday, accusing the company of solving a problem it manufactured itself.
"T-Mobile imposed these caps in the first place," said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press. "It’s a cheap sales trick: First you fabricate a problem for customers; then you make that problem go away and act like you’ve done them a huge favor."
T-Mobile is hoping that giving consumers the ability to turn the feature on and off at will — and the fact that it's providing BingeOn for free — will insulate it from regulatory scrutiny.
"We think it's highly net neutrality-friendly," Legere said.
"If you don't want it? Pow," he added, pushing an imaginary button with his finger. "It's your choice."