From the EFF's research:
"Our last finding is that T-Mobile’s video “optimization” doesn’t actually alter or enhance the video stream for delivery to a mobile device over a mobile network in any way. 2 This means T-Mobile’s “optimization” consists entirely of throttling the video stream’s throughput down to 1.5Mbps. If the video is more than 480p and the server sending the video doesn’t have a way to reduce or adapt the bitrate of the video as it’s being streamed, the result is stuttering and uneven streaming—exactly the opposite of the experience T-Mobile claims their “optimization” will have.
Given the difference between what T-Mobile implies they do and what we found, we contacted them to get clarification. They confirmed that they don’t do any actual optimization of video streams other than reducing the bandwidth allocated to them (and relying on the provider to notice, and adapt the bitrate accordingly).
T-Mobile has claimed that this practice isn't really "throttling," but we disagree. It's clearly not "optimization," since T-Mobile doesn't alter the actual content of the video streams in any way. Even the term "downgrading" is inaccurate, because that would mean video streams are simply being given a lower priority than other traffic. If that were true, then in the absence of higher priority traffic, videos should stream at the same throughput as any other content. But that's not the case: our tests show that video streams are capped at around 1.5Mbps, even when the LTE connection and the rest of T-Mobile's network can support higher throughput between the customer and the server."
So unless you subscribe to some odd definition of throttling (IE is something you do to kill something) then T-Mobile IS throttling (TallGuy has the correct definition).
So they are throttling. Even this wouldn't be an issue if:
1. When Binge-On is enabled and you're downloading from a non-partner your video wasn't throttled and it still counted against your data caps.
2. T-Mobile wasn't obscuring what they were doing.
3. It was opt in. Instead it is opt out and as such customers with unlimited plans are being affected by the throttling until they disable Binge-On.
So what about the slippery slope? The concern is that while Binge-On is currently free it would be trivial for it to stop being so. If it isn't protested now zero rating could become the status quo and that much harder to roll back later.