AT&T Sets Zero-Rating Precedent With DIRECTV Now

T-Mobile has zero-rated video in the form of BingeOn. Verizon has zero-rating on certain Go90 content. Sprint even has some zero-rated video options. AT&T previously had some zero-rated data options, but with the rollout of their DIRECTV Now streaming option, they're jumping into the zero-rating arena with both feet, and if their relatively lax attitude toward the possible net neutrality concerns is any indication for the rest of the industry, a war may well break out among the big players, using zero-rated data as the main weapon. While such a thing may have raised eyebrows as recently as a year or so ago, the industry is apparently already well into the process of descending the proverbial slippery slope, and a few recent factors may have helped with that.

AT&T's newest streaming option brings DIRECTV to a huge number of different devices for a price, AT&T mobile customers on eligible plans can watch all the DIRECTV content that they want through DIRECTV Now without eating into their data allotment. While this may not be AT&T's first foray into offering up premium content to their wireless customers at no extra charge and without users having to count gigabytes, it is thus far the biggest, most high-profile such move. Despite the obvious implications of the situation, AT&T has spoken nary a word about the possible concerns with net neutrality rules; indeed, a company bigwig essentially hand-waved the issue back in September.

AT&T's attitude is likely at least partially due to the FCC's rather lax stance on net neutrality and zero-rating. Strictly speaking, treating data traffic from one provider differently from another by way of speed falls afoul of net neutrality's rules, but charging extra or not charging is arguable. While it's this exact behavior that eventually led to Facebook's free internet initiative getting the boot from India, it's become a battleground in the mobile world, and regulatory authorities have yet to bat an eyelash. While the current state of things is no guarantee that authorities will turn a blind eye forever, it should be noted that President-elect Donald Trump's choice of cabinet members who show a clear distaste toward the FCC in its current form, and other authorities like it, may have a bearing on the state of things. Whatever the case, AT&T does not seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop, and if it never does, it's a safe bet that zero-rated premium content will become a hot button issue in the wireless world in the same way unlimited data has been.

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Daniel Fuller

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for Android Headlines since 2015, and is one of the site's Senior Staff Writers. He's been living the Android life since 2010, and has been interested in technology of all sorts since childhood. His personal, educational and professional backgrounds in computer science, gaming, literature, and music leave him uniquely equipped to handle a wide range of news topics for the site. These include the likes of machine learning, voice assistants, AI technology development, and hot gaming news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]
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