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T-Mobile's New Free Music Streaming Violates Net Neutrality

T-Mobile Logo T-Mobile Logo

Normally, when a company violates something such as Net Neutrality it generally is in the company’s best interest and they are looking for ways to make things more profitable and less valuable to consumers. A perfect example of that is with what Comcast is doing to Netflix (and others) in terms of requiring them to pay for prioritization in violation of Net Neutrality. This ultimately hurts Netflix and Netflix users that might be on Comcast, resulting in everyone but Comcast losing. Now, T-Mobile as part of their Uncarrier 5.0 and Uncarrier 6.0 initiatives made an announcement that they would be allowing users to stream music for free, meaning that if they don’t have an unlimited data plan, streaming music won’t count against their data plan.

Now, this move by T-Mobile is clearly very pro-consumer as it gives consumers the illusion that they’re saving money and data by not paying for music streaming, however there is one limitation to this new rule. First, it needs to be one of the following applications: iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Rhapsody, Spotify, Slacker, and Milk Music. They’ve also opened voting to allow users to pick two applications that they believe should be included as part of this free music initiative.

But there’s one problem with all of this, it effectively violates the principals of Net Neutrality and prioritizes one certain application’s traffic over another’s. Specifically, it rewards the already established an existing apps with the right to not penalize users for using the service while still treating the rest of the music apps on the market as second class music citizens. This means that an upstart application will naturally have a harder time competing with the Pandoras, the Spotifys and the Rhapsodys of this world. I mean, the fact that Google Play Music isn’t included as part of this list is already a bit peculiar, but even so, it means that if you’ve got an upstart music app that might be better than all of the rest of the established apps those companies already have a leg up on you in terms of not using a person’s monthly alotted data.

There is no denying that these music services use up a lot of data and if you use Spotify at very high quality for an entire month, you could easily rack up 1GB or 2GB of data usage, so for some this clearly comes as a godsend. However, I’m just not sure if T-Mobile realizes what they’re doing in terms of Net Neutrality or if this is just part of the company’s plan to happily and cheerfully lul us into a world where they pick the winners and losers through cajoling us into thinking they’re actually saving us money. If so, then this is probably one of the best evil plans I’ve ever seen from a carrier and AT&T and Verizon should be amazed and probably take some lessons. Otherwise, I think T-Mobile should seriously consider opening it up to ALL music apps and allow developers to apply for music exempt status, otherwise the company will be in direct violation of Net Neutrality. And as much as it hurts me to say this, especially considering all the awesome things T-Mobile has done lately, they’re really fucking with Net Neutrality and how the internet and mobile apps should work.

  • Matt

    Uhhh no. Its kinda of scary that these media outlets don’t grasp net neutrality yet. The issue isn’t that comcast has a special deal where you get netflix free. Its that they are extorting netflix for money, when the consumer is already paying for the bandwidth. Tmobile isn’t prioritizing traffic, you can still spend you data allowance on any music streaming service you want, They are cross promoting, and giving you something extra.

    • Kelemvor

      I think their funding of anti net neutrality PAC’s shows they do understand. They are just under the (probably accurate) impression that violating the law will make them more money than complying. Even with penalties that might be levied.

      Basically, they took a page from the Microsoft Playbook. You know, the one where defending lawsuits and paying damages resulting from unethical or illegal activities is just a “business expense.”


      I see what you’re saying but T-Mobile is deciding the market among their consumers for music streaming. While I don’t think the net result of this will be all that bad- I am also not trying to run startup music streaming service. The impication, however, is that while T-mobile is using the services people generally like they won’t have to in the future. Ultimately consumers won’t be deciding the market their providers will be. Which is not only the antithesis to what makes our economic system work it will also result in shit services being propped up by the fact that it will just be too inconvenient not to use them.

  • godrilla

    I just heard an ad on my Pandora saying enjoy ad free unlimited skips because of tmobile that’s a $35 dollar value write their. I already have their unlimited data so unlimited music doesn’t really benefit me.

    • Anshel Sag

      Correct, nor does it benefit me. Which I believe, makes us less blinded by the pro-consumer side of things. They’re technically picking winners and losers and affecting the competitive neutral nature of the internet.

  • John Rea

    This announcement coincides with the discontinuation of the Lycamobile (T-Mobile MVNO) $16/mo unlimited texting. Value wise, it was the cheapest plan for any minimal use Android phone (since texting can’t be turned off in Android).

    This change in T-Mobile decreases the value of the brand with the hope that people will be more interested in their $40/mo plan. T-mobile and T-Mo MVNOs used to have really good offerings from the low end to the unlimited end but now they are tied with AT&T and AT&T MVNOs. This sadly puts Sprint and their MVNOs at the least expensive option which is pretty irritating since (other than the Nexus 5) you have to buy an unlocked Sprint specific phone.

    Someday LTE might save us from this headache and get cellular service providers to common carrier status, but it’ll be awhile.