Free Data Programs From T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast Scrutinized by FCC

The United States Federal Communications Commission yesterday sent letters to T-Mobile, AT&T, and Comcast questioning the companies about mobile services that allow customers to access certain content without paying for the data usage, reports Bloomberg. While the FCC has been careful to note the inquiry is "not an investigation" and designed to help the FCC "stay informed as to what the practices are," there have been some questions about whether such services violate net neutrality rules.

Under scrutiny is T-Mobile's Binge On program, which allows customers to stream 480p video that doesn't count against a data cap, AT&T's Sponsored Data program that lets AT&T customers view sponsored content for free, and Comcast's Stream TV, a video service that does not count against data caps in areas where data caps are imposed. Ars Technica has uploaded a copy of the letters that were sent to the three companies.

tmobingeon
Back in February, the FCC voted in favor of new net neutrality rules preventing Internet providers from blocking or throttling web traffic or offering prioritized service for payment, but it has not specifically addressed these "zero-rating" data exemption programs. Last month, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the organization would keep an eye on T-Mobile's Binge On service, but praised it as being both "highly innovative and highly competitive."

In a statement, a T-Mobile spokesperson said the company is "looking forward" to talking with the FCC, and believes Binge On is "absolutely in line with net-neutrality rules." Comcast expressed a similar sentiment, stating it looks forward "to participating in the FCC's fact-gathering process relating to industry practices." An AT&T spokesperson said AT&T is committed to "innovation without permission" and expressed hope the FCC is too.

The FCC has requested "relevant technical and business" representatives from T-Mobile, AT&T, and Comcast be made available for discussions by January 15.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

2984839 Avatar
86 months ago
I'm glad the government is ready to protect us in case these companies exploit us by providing better service.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Renzatic Avatar
86 months ago
This is why net neutrality is stupid. It leads to micromanagement by regulators.
It's actually pretty easy in this case. They either have to give it all away for free, or charge for access to it all. Telcos aren't allowed to give preferential treatment to any one line of data over another.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Renzatic Avatar
86 months ago
Darn, this article really highlights how out out touch I am. I didn't even know net neutrality was voted through. Sad news.
You do know that the internet has been functioning under net neutrality since it's inception, right?
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Renzatic Avatar
86 months ago
Would you be saying the same thing if they were charging the companies to be available on that service, and keeping smaller companies from being usable?
I think it's funny that the usual bunch of anti regulation laissez-faire people are arguing against restrictions that allow the one truest form of laissez-faire capitalism the world has seen to be gamed by those who merely provide the gateway to it.

ISPs should only be allowed to do one thing for me: charge me access to the internet at large. I don't want them picking and choosing what gets to me, what doesn't, and what I have to pay more for based upon nothing but their own whims.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmwade77 Avatar
86 months ago
I think the AT&T and Comcast ones may be problematic, but the T-Mobile one is definitely ok. Think about it this way, with T-Mobile, you are agreeing to a lower quality stream and in exchange, T-Mobile is saying because we are sending it to you at a lower quality, we will not count it against your high speed data cap. And you have the option to have the full high quality streams, but that will count against your high speed data cap. The consumer has full control over which way they want to go. Additionally, T-Mobile has said that it is open to any service that wishes to participate, their only requirement is that video packets are easily identifiable separately from packets from other content on each site.

They did the same kind of thing with music and that was determined to be ok as well.

Now in all fairness to the FCC, they have been a bit oblivious in recent history with things like AT&T throttling unlimited plans, etc. and in this case they are simply saying they want to understand what is happening and how it may impact various services and consumers. I think the FCC doing their research like this is actually a good thing and I don't think it will lead to a full blown investigation, as that's the point, they need to simply look into it and make sure all is good. Since it appears to be in this case, I don't see that there will be an issue.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KPOM Avatar
86 months ago
This is why net neutrality is stupid. It leads to micromanagement by regulators.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

airpods pro 2 1

AirPods Pro 2 No Longer Expected to Feature Built-In Heart Rate or Body Temperature Sensor

Sunday July 3, 2022 8:07 pm PDT by
While past rumors have indicated the upcoming second-generation AirPods Pro will feature a built-in heart rate and body temperature sensor, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has cast doubt on those rumors turning out to be true, saying instead such a feature is unlikely to come anytime soon. "Over the past few months, there have been rumors about this year's model gaining the ability to determine a...
Apple Watch 8 Unreleased Feature Thumb

Apple Watch Series 8 Model Rumored to Feature 5% Larger Display

Monday July 4, 2022 5:50 am PDT by
Apple is working on an Apple Watch Series 8 model with a larger display, according to DSCC's Ross Young and Haitong International Securities's Jeff Pu. In October last year, Young suggested that the Apple Watch Series 8 could come in three display sizes. Now, responding to a query about the rumor on Twitter, Young claims that the additional display size joining the Apple Watch lineup will be ...
intel go pc justin long

Windows Laptop Makers 'Worried' About New MacBook Air Impacting Sales

Tuesday July 5, 2022 6:57 am PDT by
The upcoming launch of Apple's redesigned MacBook Air with the M2 chip has some Windows laptop manufacturers "worried" that sales of Intel-based laptops will be negatively affected, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes. "A Wintel brand vendor pointed out that at a price point of US$1,000-$1,500, the MacBook Air will crowd out other high-end notebooks," the report claims, with...
European Commisssion

EU Approves Landmark Legislation to Regulate Apple and Other Big Tech Firms

Tuesday July 5, 2022 5:53 am PDT by
European Union lawmakers have approved landmark legislation to heavily regulate Apple, Google, Meta, and other big tech firms. The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA) were proposed by the European Commission in December 2020. Now, collected in a "Digital Services Package," the legislation has been formally adopted by the European Parliament and seeks to address...
macbook air m2 order date feature

Apple Announces MacBook Air With M2 Chip Available to Order Starting July 8, Launches July 15

Wednesday July 6, 2022 4:59 am PDT by
Apple today announced that the new MacBook Air equipped with the M2 chip will be available to order starting Friday, July 8 at 5 a.m. Pacific Time. Apple said deliveries to customers and in-store availability will begin Friday, July 15. MacRumors exclusively reported that Apple planned to launch the new MacBook Air on July 15, and the date has now been confirmed by Apple. Customers will be...
top stories 2jul2022

Top Stories: M2 MacBook Air Release Date, New HomePod Rumor, and More

Saturday July 2, 2022 6:00 am PDT by
The M2 MacBook Pro has started making its way into customers' hands and we're learning more about how it performs in a variety of situations, but all eyes are really on the upcoming M2 MacBook Air which has seen a complete redesign and should be arriving in a couple of weeks. Other top stories this week included a host of product rumors including additional M2 and even M3 Macs, an updated...
Lockdown Mode Feature

Apple Announces New Lockdown Mode on iOS 16 With 'Extreme' Level of Security

Wednesday July 6, 2022 10:00 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new Lockdown Mode coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. Apple says the optional security feature is designed to protect the "very small number" of users who may be at risk of "highly targeted cyberattacks" from private companies developing state-sponsored spyware, such as journalists, activists, and government employees. Apple...
siri remote 3

Apple Releases Firmware Update for Apple TV Siri Remote

Tuesday July 5, 2022 12:10 pm PDT by
Apple today released new firmware for the Siri Remote designed for the Apple TV, updating the software from version 9M6772 to 10M1103. The software is for the redesigned Siri Remote that was released in May 2021, aka the gray remote with the updated interface. In the Apple TV settings, the new firmware will display as 0x0070, up from 0x0061. There is no word on what's new with the Apple TV...