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WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, wireless carrier T-Mobile announced plans to exempt selected streaming-video services from its customer data caps. The move, which initially favors video streams from Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu, ESPN and a handful of leading brands, will go into effect beginning Nov. 15, according to T-Mobile.

T-Mobile’s move raises questions about the true intention behind data caps, which appear entirely unrelated to congestion and network management — especially if caps are subject to such exemptions. In addition, the new billing practices have been poorly received by Internet users, thousands of whom have filed complaints at the FCC about data-usage fees and other added charges.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:   

“T-Mobile wants to suggest it’s saving customers by exempting video from its data caps. But we have to remember that T-Mobile imposed these caps in the first place. It’s a cheap sales trick: First you fabricate a problem for customers; then you make that problem go away and act like you’ve done them a huge favor.

“If offering exemptions is so easy for T-Mobile, why do we need the caps in the first place? Exemptions for selected streaming-video services prove there’s no legitimate reason to impose data caps. Data is data. There’s nothing about a gigabyte of Netflix content that makes it more or less of a drain on the carrier’s network than a gigabyte of some other data.

"People will rightly ask whether this practice discriminates unreasonably against video providers that don’t make the cut or can’t take advantage of this exemption for some reason. But the real question is why T-Mobile would discriminate in favor of its customers who watch a lot of video, and against those who don’t — especially when we’ve heard excuses so many times about the supposed strain that video puts on networks.

“Put it all together and it sure sounds like the so-called Un-Carrier’s experiments are unnecessary and unscrupulous.”

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