Top Two Wireless Carriers In The US Questioned Over Zero-Rated Data Offerings
According to a report published by the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has sent letters of warning to industry leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T, saying that their respective zero rated data offerings could cause unfair competition and bring harm to mobile users. The Big Red currently offers zero rated content by way of Go90, the video service aimed at members of the younger demographic. As for AT&T, it sells a similar offering via its DirecTV Now, which recently launched a few days ago.
For those not familiar with zero rated offers, these are services that allow consumers to have access to specific kinds of media content without affecting their data allowances per month. But recently, these types of offering have taken some flak, particularly from advocates of net neutrality. According to these critics, zero rated offers let big and powerful service providers to pay for access to mobile users, practically granting them an unfair advantage over smaller operators who can not always afford to offer zero rated deals. Various wireless carriers have already taken to launching their own version of the zero rated data business model, especially those who have expanded into digital media, allowing them to entice users with media features that do not affect the customers’ data allotments.
Zero rated deals do have their supporters. This faction argues that because of zero rated offers, more and more consumers can enjoy access to media they otherwise can not afford.
But as so often is the case, the critics are often the more vocal side, and they have been pressuring the FCC to do something about these zero rated deals and the carriers who offer them. As for the FCC, it has yet to intervene formally, preferring instead to mainly monitor things for now. In its letter to Verizon Wireless, the agency said that the Big Red’s policies on zero rated content could impact the healthy cycle needed to ensure that everybody, including both consumers and service providers, gets to enjoy all the benefits of the world wide web in a fair manner. The FCC also made sure to include some inquiries about Verizon’s and AT&T’s zero rated deals, and both mobile operators are expected to reply not later than December 15th of this year.
Interestingly, things could change starting in January of next year when President-elect Donald Trump officially becomes President of the United States. Current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will almost certainly be replaced with a new appointee, who might not be as opposed to these zero rated deals.