T-Mobile's Legere Took On EFF and Got Hammered by Critics

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2016-01-13 Print this article Print
T-Mobile Binge-On

Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, wrote in an email that Legere's open letter after the incident showed that he "understands that his response to the EFF's report was inappropriately over the top." Whether his open letter and apology makes a dent in the fervor is another story, King wrote. "Memories seem to be getting longer and longer, abetted by an Internet that never forgets."

The actual disagreement over Binge On and its technical features may be a "You say potato, I say potahto argument over whether the data compression T-Mobile uses to facilitate its BingeOn service unaccountably degrades streaming video, which in the EFF's view pushes the company into data throttling territory," wrote King. "But the bigger issue is how vendors can appease their customers' growing demand for streaming data in ways that are cost-effective and make sensible use of the companies' network infrastructures."

Jan Dawson, principal analyst of Jackdaw Research, wrote in an email that the controversy is an "inevitable outcome of John Legere's caustic approach to his job."

While Legere has been popular for openly speaking his mind, "it was bound to get him in trouble eventually," wrote Dawson. "In this particular case, both the implementation of BingeOn and Legere's response to criticism from the EFF were misguided. The implementation was non-transparent and in contrast to most of the things T-Mobile has done since the Un-Carrier initiative launched. And his response to a legitimate question from the EFF was overly defensive and somewhat insulting."

Even worse, "Legere has gotten in the habit of characterizing anyone who criticizes him as a shill for the big carriers, but in this case that was false, and he didn't sound all that contrite even when he issued his apology," wrote Dawson.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group, told eWEEK: "Sometimes watching the dialog between vendors is a lot like watching politics—the only thing you are sure of is that no one is telling the full truth."

Legere himself "tends to fire from the hip, which is good in that he controls the message and bad because it can make him look a tad [bit] crazy," wrote Enderle. "If he could combine fast with more measured, he'd likely have more solid hits and fewer catastrophic misses. But it seems to work far better than the more common excessively slow response using politically correct speech and makes him a ton more fun to watch."   

T-Mobile unveiled Binge On in November 2015 as part of the company's Un-carrier X announcements. Under Binge On, any T-Mobile customer with a Simple Choice plan that includes at least 3GB of high-speed data now gets free unlimited video streaming on their devices—which won't count against their data plans. Under Binge On, customers with qualifying data plans can stream video content from some 24 content providers to start, including HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, Sling TV, Starz, WatchESPN and more. The video streaming is provided at 480p DVD quality and is optimized to use one-third of the bandwidth that's normally required for video, according to the company. The Binge On free streaming video feature is open to any streaming video provider that meets T-Mobile's technical requirements and is free for video content providers to join, according to T-Mobile.


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