As T-Mobile is releasing ads starring Nicki Minaj and hoping to corner Verizon Wireless for sticking to its tiered data plans, the largest wireless carrier in the U.S. has announced that its post-paid customers will now be able to stream live NFL games on the official NFL Mobile app without using up any of their monthly data allowance. The new scheme is an expansion of the carrier’s zero-rated data plans that are already in place for some content viewed through the official NFL app, which can be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store. As part of the deal, Verizon post-paid customers will be able to catch all regular and post season NFL games, including Monday Night Football, without any of that counting against their monthly data caps.
Verizon customers are also entitled to watch highlights of every NFL game on the NFL Redzone app for a nominal cost of just $2 per month. The carrier, of course, is not the only one to be selectively zero-rating some streaming video content on its network. AT&T has also announced the zero-rating of all DIRECTV and U-verse content for its customers, and T-Mobile also offers its ‘Binge On’ program that allows users to stream unlimited video on their smartphones without any of it counting against their monthly data. Late last month, Sprint also announced its ‘Unlimited Freedom’ plan that offers unlimited LTE data with video streaming limited to 480p.
Popular as they are, the selective zero-rating of data continues to remain controversial at the best of times, with net-neutrality advocates voicing strong reservations about the practice. Many commentators and net neutrality advocates have also accused the carriers of not abiding by the basic principles of net-neutrality by giving preference to one data stream over another. While the FCC is yet to intervene and clarify the rules on this matter, many have been petitioning the regulator to declare the selective zero-rating of data by ISPs to be illegal. With the FCC sitting on the sidelines with a wait-and-watch approach, the carriers are going ahead with the expansion of their zero-rated data offerings with impunity. It will be interesting to see if these plans will continue to remain legit going forward or if the FCC will start a crackdown against such practices in the future.