T-Mobile's "Binge On" is just throttling for all video

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“Binge On", if you say so…


…but I did not speak out,
because I did not use T-Mobile.


To paraphrase John Oliver:

Yet another example of telecom fuckery.

Corporate greed and arrogance, writ large.

Sadly, I’m not remotely surprised :cry:


The question is, do they actually re-transcode the stream to a lower quality in “realtime” as you view, or do they have a way of tricking the source of the stream into just delivering you the lower-quality streams available through a multi-bitrate stream?

Anyone know?

I have to say that I haven’t noticed any degradation in quality. And who downloads movies with their data plan instead of wireless or a SD card?

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I asked myself the same thing. I think the answer ought to be: Fuck’em - we all do now.

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I’m not inherently against what T-mo is doing with this plan, however they are marketing it in a potentially shady manner.

But data caps are a thing, whether you like it or not, and giving someone the choice to opt into lower-quality video that doesn’t affect the cap is maybe a nice tool for some customers to have access to.

But they should know exactly what they are signing up for, and data caps in general should be required to be OBVIOUS when any data service is marketed. Regulated to be obvious, like the nutrition label on food.

Most people who watch Youtube, because (as far as I know) there is no legal way to download the video as a file that can be watched later.

Dammit they tricked me into opposing something I’ve always supported. I hope the Trump campaign doesn’t catch on to this tactic. “Ok, so you think keeping Muslims out of the country is un-American. Fine, we’ll let them in. They just have to promise to put Jesus fish on their cars. And say ‘Hallelujah’ instead of ‘Allahu Akbar’. And a few other minor things detailed in the fine print on the visa application (don’t worry, the required hard copy of the New Testament will be provided).”

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But who wants to watch more than ten minutes of YouTube on their phone? There are so many better options to do the same thing on a larger screen.

YouTube is also not part of their Binge On plan as of yet, so it still counts against your data plan, you’re better off using wifi for it.

I have an unlimited data plan on T-Mobile. When Binge-on was announced, I couldn’t find a list of which video services were part of it, or any reasons that it would benefit me, since I didn’t have any data caps to begin with. I was actually surprised to find out I was automatically opted-in to it, and got rid of it immediately.


Their second footnote says that no actual alteration of the file occurs; but transfer rate is capped at 1.5mb/s if T-Mobile’s DPI magic believes that they are video traffic, with the exact symptoms depending on what the bitrate of the video is and how the application handles buffering over links too slow to stream in real time.

I wouldn’t be surprised if their Binge Buddies™ are also encouraged to fingerprint T-mobile customers and automatically feed them whatever their low bitrate stream is, to reduce obvious loading delays and take advantage of the fact that the low resolution stream will mean less data transmitted; but in the EFF’s testing no explicit file modification was done, but ‘video’ files were transferred more slowly than other file types.

They appear to have only tested HTML5 and direct-download over HTTP, so behavior may differ in the case of RTMP or other non-HTTP video specific protocols.

If I had to guess, I’d wager that the computational cost of realtime transcoding is vastly higher than throttling(and something that carrier switches are not optimized to do efficiently, if at all, unlike throttling and would therefore require a moderately heroic buildout of video transcoding capacity) which just isn’t worth the cost compared to making higher bitrates cause awful buffering and letting users take the hint.

They might also be leery of stepping into possible ‘derivative work’ territory(unlike transient copies in RAM for purely architectural reasons, production and re-transmission of a transcoded variant of somebody’s copyrighted video might well land you in very, very, hot water if they felt like pushing the issue). They almost certainly don’t want to step right on the DMCA land-mine that would be building a system that can transcode DRMed media streams in-flight(things like RTMPe are architecturally pitiful; but so is DVD CSS and that doesn’t make ‘circumvention devices’ any more legal). A lot of media streaming isn’t encrypted, because breaking commodity HTTP CDN support isn’t worth the limited gains of ‘protecting’ it; but a nontrival percentage is(if nothing else, Netflix, which is large enough to count as nontrivlal all by itself).

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Great post. :slight_smile: Yeah, it seemed unlikely to me as well that they would bother re-transcoding every last unicast in realtime. If they did though, I’d be happy to sell them that transcoding cluster. :wink:

As a purely hypothetical exercise it would be interesting to know what the least-worst solution for a Carrier Grade Packet Switching Video Enworsener would end up being(my low-knowledge-guess would be that Broadcom has a decent chance of already making the silicon in your IP switches and certainly wouldn’t mind dropping in some VideoCore-based video/DSP features if the market seemed worthwhile).

I just wouldn’t want to discover one in the wild, especially on my wire.

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Everyone under 30, pretty much. I see it all day, every day.

as far as you know.

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