If the current trend of telecoms in the US offering up “sponsored data” on their network in exchange for free access to content sounds like a sort of Net Neutrality grey area, that’s probably because it is. In fact, the FCC is now requesting meetings with T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast in hopes of making sense out of these “zero-rated” data services.
Although FCC chairman Tom Wheeler originally called T-Mobile’s Binge On initiative “highly innovative and competitive,” it appears they now want to “have all the facts” to see what to make of it. An FCC spokesperson downplayed the meetings, calling them an “informal review,” with Wheeler specifically stating that, “This is not an investigation. This is not any enforcement.”
T-Mobile now gives customers the ability to stream TV shows and movies when using select services, while AT&T’s Sponsored Data and Data Perks plans allow companies to subsidize data costs when using their services. Comcast also offers something similar with their Stream TV plan that Xfinity customers the ability to stream cable programming that doesn’t count against their data caps.
Absent from any sort of meetings was Verizon, who has yet to rollout a data scheme of their own, although they did announce recently that they’re testing a sponsored data program on their network as well.