Opinion: T-Mobile Deals A Triple Win

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)  (2002 Getty Images)

T-Mobile is in the news for the wrong reasons, but they are also up to some good.

Music fans who use T-Mobile as their wireless provider have reason to rejoice with the recent announcement that the company will exempt a multitude of popular music services from their consumers’ data caps, which means consumers can listen more often, and for longer, without increasing their monthly bill.

This announcement is a win-win-win agreement that benefits everyone involved and provides consumers more flexibility to use their wireless access for whatever means they choose. But, some fringe special interest groups would have you believe otherwise based on fantastical, hypothetical scenarios.

Before these special interest groups continue demands for unnecessary government intervention and control over the Internet, they should take a moment to relax ... and remember that a company like T-Mobile has every incentive to make their music streaming initiative more inclusive.

- Mario H. Lopez

T-Mobile’s Music Freedom initiative allows their customers to stream music to their mobile devices from seven of the most popular music services, like iTunes and Spotify, without counting against their allotted wireless data limits. It is a great idea that gives consumers exactly what they want—unfettered access to the music they enjoy. What’s more, since their music listening will be exempt from their monthly data allowances, they will have more of those resources available to use on other wireless content and services. 

In essence, T-Mobile’s initiative creates more supply in the wireless realm where so much of our communications and Internet activities are increasingly taking place. This bodes well for everyone from application developers and innovators, to tech entrepreneurs, students, and just regular users who enjoy listening to music on their devices.

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There is additional benefit for underserved communities as well. For example, research shows that Latinos and African Americans use their mobile devices as their primary means to access the Internet more so than other demographic groups. As such, these communities stand to benefit as they will have more wireless bandwidth available for other worthwhile uses.

It is important to note that T-Mobile does not charge the music content providers or their consumers a fee to take part in this initiative. The company simply reached mutually beneficial agreements with the music service providers that allows them to better serve their shared consumers. The company says they plan to add new music outlets to their initiative over time. And, in a democratic fashion, they are encouraging their customers to vote online and through social media on which music streaming services should be added to the program if they are not already included—a bonus win for fairness and transparency.   

All of this is somehow unbelievably bad news for the folks at Public Knowledge, a special interest group that supposedly has consumers’ interests in mind. Public Knowledge and others like them erroneously view T-Mobile’s new service as a threat to the Internet. They argue for “net neutrality” — a belief that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally, even if it is detrimental to consumers in the process. Public Knowledge claims that if T-Mobile’s initiative provides preferential treatment to some services over its network than others now, the company will maybe, one day, exclude other content providers from similar data cap exemptions in a retaliatory or anti-competitive manner.

Of course, this is a completely imaginary problem that has not occurred, but the groups use this non-existent issue as a means to call for heavy-handed government regulation of the Internet and mobile marketplace.  

What Public Knowledge fails to realize is the same driving force that likely spurred T-Mobile’s music streaming initiative – the desire to meet and exceed consumers’ desires – is the same force that would prevent T-Mobile from acting in a punitive way against a popular or up-and-coming content provider. In today’s world where consumers routinely harness technology to amplify their voices, the backlash in the kind of far-off scenario Public Knowledge is convinced will occur would be deafening. Simply put, such a hypothetical scenario would work against T-Mobile.

So before these special interest groups continue demands for unnecessary government intervention and control over the Internet, they should take a moment to relax, perhaps listen to some calming music, and remember that a company like T-Mobile has every incentive to make their music streaming initiative more inclusive of different content providers to attract or better serve a greater number of consumers. 

The rest of us should note that services like this are a direct result of an open Internet where innovation thrives, not one where unnecessary government regulations stifles creative responses to the wishes of everyday consumers.

Mario H. Lopez is President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a national advocacy organization that promotes liberty, opportunity and prosperity.

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