FCC policy on zero-rate streaming hardens towards AT&T and Verizon

The Federal Communications Commission initially liked the idea of letting ISPs charge nothing to stream select content. The commission now has determined that it doesn’t like seeing the content providers zero-rate their own internet service for their own content.

In letters to AT&T and Verizon (which we have just linked), the FCC has expressed concern over the cellular carriers’ practices in offering their content — through DIRECTV NOW and go90, respectively — free to stream for their customers without incurring data charges. The commission believes that by limiting zero-rating opportunities to their own franchises, the two telcos come into breach with the 2015 Open Internet Order — part of the order’s goal is to “increase choice and lower costs for consumers.”

Essentially, while it costs nothing on a consolidated basis for AT&T and Verizon to zero-rate their own programs, that would not necessarily the case for any other content provider wishing to participate in zero-rate activities with the two companies.

Using AT&T’s figures for DIRECTV NOW, it would cost a content provider over $1.50 every month to zero-rate a minute of video streamed daily over LTE. Multiply that cost over multiple shows watched per day by many own-brand customers and the bill may prove too burdensome for competitors to shoulder.

Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Chief Jon Wilkins has requested that both companies provide specific usage data for its services as well as competing services on its network and/or for its customers, including how much of the traffic is zero-rated. Wilkins also asks for expectations of consumers’ use of all services regarding internet and content. Responses are due on December 15.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.