T-Mobile's Binge On, and services like it, have attracted masses of debate of late and especially when it comes to the ideas surrounding Net Neutrality. However, what services like Binge On has also done, is identify the middle ground between what is right in terms of the regulations of Net Neutrality and what is right for consumers. A discrepancy which came to attention last month when the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) released a report detailing the benefits of zero-rated services for those from low-income backgrounds and a discrepancy which has reared its head again in a report today from ITIF.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report early today which while addressing services that are zero-rated (consumers are not charged to use them) is a form of prioritizing, also noted that the prioritization they offer, can be good for consumers. In fact, the report goes as far as to say that “adhering to such a strict interpretation of net neutrality would be misguided.” The report does pick up on the fact that zero-rated services, by their design, are services which look to guide or lead consumers to using those services (compared to others). An aspect which strictly speaking is against the notion of Net Neutrality. However, the report focuses on the fact that these services do ultimately offer an improved “consumer value” and it comes to this conclusion by way of a number of benefits that it sees zero-rated services as offering.
Firstly, is that these services lead to innovation within the industry. By attracting more customers, they attract more investment which leads to further advancements for the industry as a whole. Secondly, while the issue seems to be permanently being discussed in the U.S., ITIF sees the value that is on offer with zero-rated services to those in developing countries, where users will be able to subscribe to services (they might not otherwise) without incurring any associated costs. ITIF also adds that another benefit of such services is that they are “generally pro-competitive.” Essentially, services which are not that different to toll-free 800 numbers and can provide a gateway to new firms and applications. Closing out the summary of the report, ITIF also points to the value that is specifically on offer to consumers through these services and the fact that a market which works as a whole to provide consumers with zero-rated services and apps should be celebrated. That along with the fact that being able to reduce the amount of bits that is used for zero-rated services (compared to services which are not zero-rated), leads to a better use of networks by carriers. That is, as long as it does not impact on the quality of service that is offered.