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T-Mobile says video providers can now opt out of being throttled

Last year, T-Mobile flipped a switch and began throttling all video that it can detect over its network as part of its "Binge On" program, requiring customers to go into their accounts and turn the program off if they want to watch HD video. Today, T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced that companies can also decline to have their videos throttled. "Going forward, any video service meeting traffic-identification requirements will be able to opt out, and T-Mobile will stop including them in the Binge On program and will no longer modify their video streams," Legere said.

It's a win for companies like YouTube that criticized the program, though today Legere also announced that YouTube had agreed to join Binge On after achieving concessions from the carrier that will allow the company to "optimize" its own video streams. T-Mobile will also allow other companies to follow YouTube by allowing them to "manage their video stream themselves."

T-Mobile has spun the Binge On program heavily since it launched, dismissing accurate terms like "throttling" while claiming that it is merely optimizing video for its customers as a consumer benefit. The company probably wanted to avoid talking about throttling specifically since Binge On walks a risky line and could be a violation of the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order which prohibits discriminatory actions like blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Binge On allows any partner to join to allow T-Mobile customers to receive their video streams without hitting their data caps, but regardless of partner consent, the service throttles all video that T-Mobile can detect by default. We're still waiting for the FCC to scrutinize the program.

Critics of the program are not likely to appreciate T-Mobile's half-step away from throttling, since it's now an opt-out program both for consumers and video providers — but at least it's moving in the right direction. When YouTube criticized the program last December, it noted that "reducing data charges can be good for users, but it doesn't justify throttling all video services, especially without explicit user consent."