Last fall, T-Mobile released a new service to its customers called "Binge On," which allowed users to stream videos from Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, WatchESPN and more, without eating into their data allowance. For those of us using other carriers, the deal sounds amazing. And, considering video views have reportedly doubled, it seems that T-Mobile users love it, too.
There's only one problem. A big problem, actually. Now, some officials are posing questions over Binge On's legality.
According to a new study from Stanford University, Binge On is likely violating net neutrality laws. Net neutrality means that Internet service providers must treat every website on the Internet equally. But some Internet providers wanted to create "fast lanes," where giants like Google and Netflix would have an advantage over smaller, lesser-known sites.
It's been a hot-button topic for the past few years. And officials from both sides have been duking it out to determine what's legal and what's not. Critics of Binge On believe it just adds more fuel to the fire, since it creates a tiered Internet service.
Barbara van Schewick, a net neutrality expert and author of the Stanford study explained, "[Binge On] limits user choice, distorts competition, stifles innovation and harms free speech on the Internet. If more [Internet Service Providers] offer similar programs, these harms will only grow worse."
Schewick has a plethora of concerns when it comes to Binge On; however, the primary concern is that the program already favors certain services over others. For example, Binge On users can stream music videos from Vevo TV, but not from YouTube or Vimeo.
Those backing Binge On say that the service limitations are not to place one company over another, but are actually caused by regular business expansion. As Binge On grows in popularity, so will its streaming options. Amazon Prime Video, for example, was recently added.
The legality of Binge On, like many net neutrality cases, remains up in the air. Until the FCC officially decides which lines can be crossed and which can't, net neutrality will remain a gray area.