Zero-Rated Data Beneficial To Low-Income Customers, Per Civil Rights Group
The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has released a white paper stating that zero rate mobile data deals are actually an effective way for low income mobile users to enjoy access to broadband services. As a national nonprofit organization, the MMTC was formed to advocate equal opportunity and civil rights in industries such as mass media, telecommunications, and broadband. Apparently, this civil rights group took it upon itself to study the impact of free data plans in five particular aspects -- the digital divide, consumers dependent on broadband access, the exploration of mobile broadband business models, mobile ecosystem innovation, and empowerment of consumers. The MMTC believes that the advantages and effects of free data are not to be underestimated.
According to the MMTC, data services that do not come with costs have the ability to attract more mobile users online. This has the effect of not only letting service providers facilitate better customer experiences overall, but also encourage more and aggressive innovation in the market. As explained by Kim Keenan, the chief executive officer of the MMTC, users can take full advantage of free data deals in order to enjoy streaming and Internet browsing without having to worry about their data plans getting affected, and in the process, they have more liberty in trying to access other relevant data that can be used for employment or health care purposes.
Zero rated mobile data offers have taken some flak lately, especially from those that promote the concept of net neutrality. According to certain circles, zero rated services give leeway for larger players in the industry exactly because they can afford to offer costless services. Take Verizon Wireless’ FreeBee data for example -- it basically allows business entities with big budgets to shoulder the costs of consumers just to have the chance to deliver their content and promotions to mobile users. And don’t forget T-Mobile’s controversial Binge On service, which excludes content providers whose videos do not meet certain technical requirements. Even somebody as mighty as Facebook has gotten some criticism. Earlier this year, the social media giant’s Free Basics offering was banned in India, and just a few days ago, 27 Swedish broadcasters signed a joint letter declaring that Facebook’s offering is in direct violation of core net neutrality principles.
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had voted to systemize new net neutrality rules for both wireless and wireline networks. With regards to zero rated data offerings, the FCC continues to closely monitor them, assessing their validity on a case to case basis.