T-Mobile Criticized For Online 'Music Freedom' Move

T-Mobile has drawn the ire of network neutrality proponent Public Knowledge with its announcement June 18 that it would provide its subs access, without data charges, to "ALL" the "top" music streaming services—it listed Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Slacker, and Spotify—as well as from its partners—Samsung’s Milk Music and the forthcoming Beatport music app from SFX.

While that new policy was billed by T-Mobile as setting their users' music free, Public Knowledge did not see it that way, focusing instead on the non-"top" services that would still be subject to data charges.

"Normally, when T-Mobile customers reach their cap, their connection slows down significantly. Now T-Mobile will choose some services to be in an unmetered fast lane," said Public Knowledge. "In other words, T-Mobile is now picking winners and losers online."

Public Knowledge called that gatekeeping interference by ISPs, which it said was "exactly what net neutrality rules should be designed to prevent." "Picking and choosing a few services to exempt from those caps does not make them any better," it said.

The FCC is currently collecting public input on revamping network neutrality rules, and Public Knowledge is urging them to tell the FCC and Congress that exempting some services from data caps violated network neutrality.

T-Mobile said in announcing the change that it was, instead, “Our competitors want you to believe that Internet radio is still free on their networks – but it’s not,” said Mike Sievert (pictured), chief marketing officer for T-Mobile, said in announcing the new policy. He said that on those competitors "you’re paying for every note of every song you stream. You even pay for the ads. Our goal with Music Freedom is different. We want people to enjoy their music worry-free – the way it’s meant to be.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.