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EFF Accuses T-Mobile of Violating Net Neutrality With Throttled Video (arstechnica.com) 57

An anonymous reader writes: T-Mobile's new "unlimited" data plan that throttles video has upset the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which accuses the company of violating net neutrality principles. The new $70-per-month unlimited data plan "limits video to about 480p resolution and requires customers to pay an extra $25 per month for high-definition video," reports Ars Technica. "Going forward, this will be the only plan offered to new T-Mobile customers, though existing subscribers can keep their current prices and data allotments." EFF Senior Staff Technologist Jeremy Gillula told the Daily Dot, "From what we've read thus far it seems like T-Mobile's new plan to charge its customers extra to not throttle video runs directly afoul of the principle of net neutrality." The FCC's net neutrality rules ban throttling, though Ars notes "there's a difference between violating 'the principle of net neutrality' and violating the FCC's specific rules, which have exceptions to the throttling ban and allow for case-by-case judgements." "Because our no-throttling rule addresses instances in which a broadband provider targets particular content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, it does not address a practice of slowing down an end user's connection to the internet based on a choice made by the end user," says the FCC's Open Internet Order (PDF). "For instance, a broadband provider may offer a data plan in which a subscriber receives a set amount of data at one speed tier and any remaining data at a lower tier." The EFF is still determining whether or not to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
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EFF Accuses T-Mobile of Violating Net Neutrality With Throttled Video

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  • It's optional (Score:1, Informative)

    by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 )
    You can turn it off and spend be charged and the regular rate, or watch it low bandwidth for free.
    • I'm still wondering why you can't just use a VPN instead. Do they throttle traffic that can't be classified or something? Or better yet, do they throttle HTTPS traffic? You can disguise anything as HTTPS traffic...

      • Because 99% of people don't know what a VPN is. T-Mobile is happy throttling 99% of their customers and just writing off the 1% that can get around it.
    • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

      [Binge-on] is optional

      Didn't even make it to the second sentence in the summary, did you? It's mandatory on the new "unlimited" plans, and "HD" (>480p) video will cost you an extra $25 a month.

      • [Binge-on] is optional

        Didn't even make it to the second sentence in the summary, did you? It's mandatory on the new "unlimited" plans, and "HD" (>480p) video will cost you an extra $25 a month.

        Nowhere in the plan documentation is this stated.

        You'll have to wait until the plan goes on sale in a few weeks to actually test it. There's no reason to believe that this is separate from the existing Binge On feature.

        • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

          I have no idea why T-Mobile has so many fanboys hearing only what they want to hear, but their press release [t-mobile.com] isn't exactly ambiguous:

          With T-Mobile ONE, even video is unlimited at standard definition [...] For customers who want higher definition video, T-Mobile ONE has you covered too with an HD add-on for $25 a month per line.

          Ars [arstechnica.com] has the same take on T-Mobile charging $25 extra for "HD."

          • Please read what you quoted. UNLIMITED HD is $25 more.

            Unlimited data.
            Full speed up to the 97th percentile (currently around 26 GB).
            Unlimited (unmetered) video @ 1.5 Mbps. This already exists and is known as Binge On. It's literally one click to toggle it once you log into the TMobile site.
            Add-on available for unlimited (unmetered) video @ full speed.

            ZERO indication that you can't opt out of the unmetered 1.5 Mbps shit to get full speed video.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday August 19, 2016 @08:58PM (#52736121)

    How are they detecting "video streams" in order to throttle it?
    Based on host (e.g. known domain names for video hosts)?
    Based on protocol (e.g. blocking known streaming protocols)?
    Deep packet inspection?

    If they are detecting based on host, that's a net neutrality violation since they are discriminating between "video hosts they know about and throttle" and "video hosts they dont know about and don't throttle". If they are attempting to detect based on protocols or port numbers, it wont work for things that use standard HTTP as the underlying protocol or that use port numbers other than the ones they are expecting. And if they are trying some form of packet inspection, good luck doing that on an encrypted HTTPS YouTube stream.

    Also I wonder how they are enforcing the 480p restriction. Are they re-encoding the videos? Blocking streams higher than 480p? Something else? (and again, good luck doing that on an encrypted HTTPS YouTube stream)

    More to the point, you could probably easily get around whatever they are doing with a VPN and I bet you could find a suitable VPN provider for less than the $25 T-Mobile wants for unlocking high definition video...

    • I was okay with binge-on since it was no cost and offered benefits for both the wireless subscriber and T-Mobile. This is crossing the line whether it's about net neutrality or just value go the customer.

      At least they aren't killing the grandfathered unlimited plans ... yet. That's when they're guaranteed to lose me as a customer

    • Your questions is why this is a very sticky situation...

      They 'detect' the streams in that streaming providers need to meet some sort of requirements to qualify. According to statements made, they're purely technical. Basically, if you can provide them a few IP addresses and the ability to respond to T-Mobile saying '480p please', you're in, I'm unaware of an instance where T-Mobile has discriminated against any provider that has met these purely technical requirements, nor am I aware of anyone coming forwar

      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        The issue is that they are now saying you have to pay extra to get HD video if you are on one of these new plans. If a provider doesn't give T-Mobile the details necessary to detect/block HD streams from that provider (or to force streams to 480p) how can T-Mobile stop people from getting full HD streams from that provider without paying the extra $25 charge? And more to the point, how can T-Mobile stop people using a VPN or proxy to get around paying the $25 charge?

        • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

          how can T-Mobile stop people from getting full HD streams from that provider without paying the extra $25 charge

          They use some form of DPI [arstechnica.com] to detect video content, and throttle everything that matches--even non-streaming downloads of video files--to 1.5 Mbps. If your video provider of choice feels like sucking T-Mobile's cock, there's an API approved providers can implement to serve <1.5Mbps streams to the "Binge-On" customer instead.

          If your video provider of choice has not written any T-Mobile-specific code, they better be able to dynamically degrade to a <1.5Mbps stream, or the video will buffer or not load a

          • by jonwil ( 467024 )

            Good luck doing meaningful deep packet inspection on encrypted HTTPS packets. Or do they plan to simply throttle HTTPS data of all sorts in case it might somehow be a video clip? Or are they somehow doing MITM on HTTPS connections?

            • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

              According to this anon [slashdot.org], they do string matching on host, content-type, and SNI fields, which is how they throttled HTTPS YouTube. If you wrote a proxy that rewrote those fields, you could escape Binge-On. Or apparently make Binge-On detect random shit as an approved streaming partner and zero-rate it for you.

              • That is not how they throttle youtube. That is how they zero-rate youtube traffic. They rate-limit everything.

                Since everything is zero rated in the new plans, they dont have to do string matching on hosts SNI, etc. They just rate-limit everything. For 480p, the rate limit is around 1.5 mbps. For HD plans the rate limit is higher.

                You cant workaround by using a VPN, because VPN would throttled to 1.5 mbps (and with VPN overhead you may end up with less than 480p).

          • Anyone claiming the video throttling ("Binge-On") is optional or can be turned off hasn't read TFA or TFS. That used to be the case, and still is on the old plans, but it's mandatory on the new "unlimited" plans in order to prevent you from actually using any data.

            Please cite plan documentation stating that it is mandatory. Or STFU.

            • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

              I did that [slashdot.org], so quit being an angsty fanboy. It's in their press release -- 480p video is unlimited, HD video is an extra $25 a month on top of your "unlimited" plan.

              • Please read what you quoted. UNLIMITED HD is $25 more.

                Unlimited data.
                Full speed up to the 97th percentile (currently around 26 GB).
                Unlimited (unmetered) video @ 1.5 Mbps. This already exists and is known as Binge On. It's literally one click to toggle it once you log into the TMobile site.
                Add-on available for unlimited (unmetered) video @ full speed.

                ZERO indication that you can't opt out of the unmetered 1.5 Mbps shit to get full speed video.

                • by Z34107 ( 925136 )

                  Let's assume you can still "opt out of the unmetered 1.5 Mbps shit to get full speed video." Go explain why it costs $25 extra for "unlimited HD" when you're already paying for a supposedly "unlimited" plan with "unlimited data."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Full analysis of Binge On video classification methods is given in this paper:

      http://david.choffnes.com/pubs/bingeon_sigcomm16.pdf [choffnes.com]

    • And if they are trying some form of packet inspection, good luck doing that on an encrypted HTTPS YouTube stream.

      The 3 leading DPI platforms currently have no problem identifying Youtube over HTTPS. I think most of them use the certificate exchange to do so at present. Encrypted certificate exchange which is being considered as an enhancement to HTTP2 may prevent this.

    • There's a combination of technologies being used. Packet inspection is the big one. Yes, you can bypass it by using HTTPS.

      However, they're also doing it by host, but only with the consent of the host owner. The reason the host owner gives consent is because if they do, then their content will be both throttled, but also made free, to users who don't have unlimited plans.

  • When they started this throttling thing, only a small number of video sources were "free" and I complained that this was a blatant violation of net neutrality.

    But now they appear to be throttling all video across the board so all content is degraded equally. It's hard to argue that this isn't neutral.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      " It's hard to argue that this isn't neutral."

      It's only neutral if you consider the subset of "video services they detect" that TMobile chose. It's to slow some packets coming to you as bandwidth limited, even though you are paying for that service, not some selected subset of those packets.

      They're throttling some services vs other services, you could make your selective argument about any subset they choose to select.

      e.g. They throttle news papers based in New York.... well at least they're treating all ne

    • But now they appear to be throttling all video across the board

      Across which board? Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Redtube? What about if you host a video on a private server and play it, is it still throttled? If so then there's no problem. If not then it's still a breach of net neutrality.

      I'm going to guess that they have a list of hosts they throttle.

  • How is this "throttling"? All T-Mobile is pointing out is that bandwidth is a limited resource. If you want more of it, you need to pay for it. How is that any different than the days when we moved from 56K dial up to broadband?

  • Now this is honest -- unlimited but with video throttling, more for no video throttling. You accept a known agreement which also recognizes the reality.

    Compare vs. sneakily extorting some of what you pay Netflix or they will crapify your Netflix, contrary to their agreement.

  • Netflix charges for hd too though it is only a dollar. how is it different from what tmobile is doing?

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