There's a difference between slowing down a user's internet connection after the user reaches his or her data limit, and slowing down a user's internet connection just for particular types of content, such as videos and games.
The latter is a violation of the no-throttling rule.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made this clear in its Open Internet Order. But a closer inspection of T-Mobile's latest plan suggests the carrier could be discriminating against video content and violating net neutrality rules.
Internet rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is examining the new T-Mobile ONE service.
"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," Jeremy Gillula, a senior staff technologist of EFF, tells The Daily Dot.
T-Mobile's Unlimited Everything — There's A Catch
The T-Mobile ONE plan seems very tempting since it revives the old idea of unlimited data, whether for talk and text services or mobile internet, all on 4G LTE. The plan starts at $70 a month for the first line, $50 a month for a second line, and $20 a month per line for up to eight additional lines. T-Mobile's LTE network, the company touts, has been designed just for this purpose: "to unleash unlimited data."
"Only T-Mobile's network can handle something as huge as destroying data limits," T-Mobile CEO and President John Legere claims.
But while the plan promises to feed the data hungry, beneath the hype of "unlimited everything," there is a catch.
The service will offer unlimited video but pinned down to the standard definition of 480p, "typically DVD quality," T-Mobile proposes. If subscribers want higher quality videos, they will have to shell out an extra $25 per line monthly for the HD add-on.
Is T-Mobile Discriminating Against Video Content?
The push to offer low-quality video streaming to some customers — while offering better video streaming services to others who can afford to pay more — is, in effect, a form of throttling that discriminates against video content.
Internet service providers are prohibited from "impairing" or "degrading" internet traffic simply based on content, application, or service, such as video, according to FCC rules.
"The FCC (and EFF) are just fine with ISPs offering different tiers of service, as long as the tiers don't discriminate against different types of content," Gillula explains to Ars Technica. "But that's precisely what T-Mobile is doing here."
The T-Mobile ONE service is said to be a carryover of T-Mobile's equally controversial plan called Binge On, which launched in November 2015 and allowed subscribers to "binge" on videos from HBO Now, HBO Go, ESPN and Netflix but streamed at 480p.
The EFF pointed out at the time that T-Mobile was throttling video traffic to 1.5 megabits per second, leading to poor video streaming service.