Although T-Mobile CEO John Legere regularly laces his public comments with f-bombs and other colorful language, he seems to have realized that he took things too far by asking "who the f . . ." the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks it is.
In an open letter posted on the company's Web site yesterday, Legere reiterated his support for Net neutrality and apologized to EFF and its supporters over their criticism of T-Mobile's "Binge On" video streaming service, which critics have said is nothing more than "throttling."
Introduced in November, Binge On automatically slows down streaming rates for video content to DVD, rather than HD, quality on T-Mobile customers' devices, which reduces the amount of data they consume. It also enables zero-rated streaming from official Binge On partner providers, which means their video content doesn't count toward customers' monthly data limits.
Last week, EFF released the results of tests it conducted that concluded Binge On is throttling -- that is, restricting streaming and download speeds -- rather than optimizing video content. After its results were published, Legere posted an online rebuttal that said Binge On critics were "playing semantics" by labeling the service as throttling. He also released a video asking, "who the f . . . are you anyway, EFF?"
'WeAreEFF' Twitter Storm
Legere's outburst set off a stream of tweets under the hashtag #WeAreEFF, with many users noting their longtime support for the organization. Video startup Slidefuse also posted an image of a notice declaring that it was withdrawing its 4Stream.TV service from the Binge On program.
In a follow-up blog post yesterday, Legere said he wanted to "clarify a few things" and offered an apology to EFF and its supporters, noting that "Binge On is a very 'pro' Net neutrality capability."
"Just because we don't completely agree on all aspects of Binge On doesn't mean I don't see how they fight for consumers," he wrote. "We both agree that it is important to protect consumers' rights and to give consumers value. We have that in common, so more power to them." Legere added that he looked forward to "sitting down and talking with the EFF."
FCC Questions Zero-Rating Offers
The EFF is not the only organization to question whether T-Mobile's Binge On offering is throttling, a practice that flies in the face of the Open Internet Order approved by the Federal Communications Commission last year. Google property YouTube and the Internet Association have also raised concerns about the mobile carrier's service.
The FCC late last year also asked T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast for more information about how their free-data streaming offers relate to the agency's goal of "maintaining a free and open Internet."
According to the EFF's tests of Binge On, T-Mobile is slowing download and streaming speeds not only for program partners' content, but for all HTML5 video streams. The organization has suggested that T-Mobile would better serve customers by not slowing down video delivery of non-partners and by making Binge On an opt-in rather than an opt-out program.