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
68 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
68 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
68 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
68 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
68 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
68 months ago
This is why net neutrality is stupid. It leads to micromanagement by regulators.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 6 in hand

Apple Faces Another iPhone Lawsuit Over 'Programmed Obsolescence'

Monday March 1, 2021 6:44 am PST by
Apple faces a new class-action lawsuit that accuses it of deliberately releasing iOS updates that slowly reduce the performance of an iPhone, forcing customers to upgrade their devices. The lawsuit comes from the Portuguese Consumer Protection Agency, Deco Proteste (via Marketeer), which in a statement says that it will proceed with a case against the Cupertino tech giant because it...
PIA23764 RoverNamePlateonMars web

NASA Mars Perseverance Rover Uses Same PowerPC Chipset Found in 1998 G3 iMac

Tuesday March 2, 2021 3:21 am PST by
NASA's Perseverance rover, which recently made history landing on the surface of Mars, is powered by the same processor used in an iMac more than 23 years old. Image Credit: NASA As reported by NewScientist (via Gizmodo), the rover includes the PowerPC 750 processor, the same chip used in the G3 iMac in 1998. The main chipset is the same; however, there are differences between the...
magsafe charging brick feature

Prosser: iPhone 12 MagSafe Battery Pack to Feature Reverse Charging

Monday March 1, 2021 1:18 pm PST by
Apple is working on MagSafe-compatible battery packs that will be compatible with the iPhone 12 models, and leaker Jon Prosser today said on the Genius Bar podcast that one version of the battery pack will feature "reverse charging." According to Prosser, Apple is working on two versions of the battery packs, one that's a standard version and one that's a premium version with reverse...
rosetta 2

Rosetta May Be Removed From M1 Macs in Some Regions on macOS 11.3

Tuesday March 2, 2021 5:20 pm PST by
Installing the upcoming macOS 11.3 software update on an M1 Mac may result in Rosetta 2 being removed in one or more regions around the world. In the third beta of macOS 11.3 seeded to developers for testing today, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser uncovered new strings in the beta's code indicating that "Rosetta will be removed upon installing this update." Another new string reads "Rosetta ...
iphone 12 pro display video

iPhone 13 to Include 1TB Storage Option and LiDAR Across the Board, Says Wedbush Analyst

Monday March 1, 2021 4:00 am PST by
Apple's forthcoming iPhone 13 could include a 1TB storage option for some models and LiDAR Scanners across the entire lineup, according to a report from Wedbush analysts. In a new note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said that initial Asian supply chain checks gave the firm "increased confidence" that Apple's 5G-driven product cycle would extend well into 2022,...
Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

Tuesday March 2, 2021 9:32 am PST by
Apple will retain the Lightning connector on the iPhone for the "foreseeable future," with no intention of switching to USB-C, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In spite of much of the industry moving toward USB-C, Apple will not be using it to replace the Lightning connector on the iPhone 13, or indeed on any iPhone model for the time being. In a note seen by MacRumors yesterday,...
iphone 12 120hz thumbnail feature

Kuo: iPhone 13 Lineup to Feature Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Monday March 1, 2021 7:50 am PST by
iPhone 13 models will all feature a smaller notch, while the two Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO display technology for a 120Hz refresh rate, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Several other sources have previously claimed that some iPhone 13 models will support a 120Hz refresh...
Screen Shot 2021 03 03 at 11

MagSafe Charging Port for iPhone Appears in Apple Patent

Wednesday March 3, 2021 1:30 am PST by
In a newly granted patent, Apple envisions a type of connectivity port using an iteration of its magnetic MagSafe charger to charge an iPhone, potentially paving the way for a future without Lightning. Submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday (via Patently Apple), the patent outlines a three-pinned MagSafe charger, similar to the ones found in older MacBook...
apple transfer google photos 1

Apple Launches Service for Transferring iCloud Photos and Videos to Google Photos

Wednesday March 3, 2021 12:04 pm PST by
Apple this week introduced a new service that's designed to make it quick and easy for iCloud users to transfer their stored photos and videos to Google Photos. As outlined in an Apple support document, you can go to Apple's privacy website and sign in to see the "Transfer a copy of your data" option. If you select this and go through all the steps, Apple will transfer your iCloud photos and ...
galaxy s21 iphone 12 pro max front feature2

Kuo: Some 2022 iPhones to Abandon Notch in Favor of 'Punch-Hole' Display

Monday March 1, 2021 8:05 am PST by
At least some 2022 iPhone models will abandon the notch and switch to a "punch-hole display design" instead, similar to Samsung's recent high-end Galaxy smartphones, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Kuo said the hole-punch display design will be adopted by high-end 2022 iPhones at a minimum, and if production yields are good enough, all 2022 iPhone...