One of the prevailing topics in the mobile sector over the last year or two is that of Net Neutrality. However, ever since the FCC ruled in favor of reclassifying internet services as utilities and therefore, subject to Net Neutrality regulations, the topic of debate has evolved to what actually constitutes as being in breach of Net Neutrality principles. Specifically, much of the controversy seems to be currently surrounding the employing and use of zero-rated data services by carriers in the US.
Zero-rating is a service which is starting to become a little more common practice with a number of carriers, including the likes of AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, who are all currently toying with the idea and looking to offer their customers a form of sponsored or rated-out data. Generally speaking, T-Mobile’s Binge On service is one which seems to have hit the headlines more frequently than others, which is likely to be an indication of the popularity of the service in general. Although, this also means that for those who advocate Net Neutrality, the likes of Binge On and Verizon’s FreeBee Data program are prime examples of where Net Neutrality regulations should be taking force and addressing.
In fact, the latest is that advocates of Net Neutrality including representatives from the likes of Free Press, The Center for Media Justice and Fight for the Future were part of a wider group which hand delivered 100,000 complaint letters to the FCC today. The topic of the letters and the complaints in general seem to focus on requesting the FCC take action against zero-rated data services, stating that these services operate in direct violation to the Open Internet Order. According to the details, the handing over of the 100,000 letters today was part of a wider media initiative to also generate attention to the issue of zero-rating.
Interestingly and unlikely to be a coincidence, this was on the same day in which following an FCC monthly meeting, the FCC’s Tom Wheeler confirmed during a press conference that they are looking closer at zero-rated data services and specifically how they fit in with the Open Internet Order, with the FCC still collecting information on the services in question.