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Academic: Binge On violates net neutrality

Barbara van Schewick, Professor of Law and Helen L. Crocker Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School, Director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, has suggested that US telco T-Mobile’s Binge On service introduced in November 2015 that offers ‘unlimited’ video streaming from selected providers violates key net neutrality principles as currently offered and harms user choice, innovation, competition, and free speech online.

In a detailed paper – T-Mobile’s Binge On Violates Key Net Neutrality Principles – van Schewick, suggests that Binge On undermines the core vision of net neutrality: Internet service providers (ISPs) that connect us to the Internet should not act as gatekeepers that pick winners and losers online by favouring some applications over others. She says that by exempting Binge On video from using customers’ data plans, T-Mobile is favouring video from the providers it adds to Binge On over other video.

She notes that T-Mobile claims that it does not intend to become a gatekeeper on the Internet: It says Binge On is open to all legal video streaming providers at no cost, as long as they can meet some “simple technical requirements”, but van Schewick suggests the requirements published on T-Mobile’s website are substantial.

“They categorically exclude providers that use the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), making it impossible for innovative providers such as YouTube to join. They discriminate against providers that use encryption, a practice that is becoming the industry standard. While some providers can join easily; a significant number will need to work with T-Mobile to determine whether their service can be part of Binge On. Many will have to invest time and resources to adapt their service to T-Mobile’s systems. The smaller the provider, the longer it will likely take for T-Mobile to get to it,” she suggests.

“The result: Binge On allows some providers to join easily and creates lasting barriers for others, especially small players, non-commercial providers, and start-ups. As such, the programme harms competition, user choice, free expression, and innovation,” she concludes.

 

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