Trump’s FCC chairman has no problem with carriers’ free-data programs, drops investigation


It wasn’t too long ago carriers in the US offering customer’s free, zero-rated data on sponsored content was a Net Neutrality grey area and growing cause of concern for the FCC. So much in fact that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler held an “informal review” with T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast to discuss the finer details of their zero-rated schemes.

With Wheeler now out of the picture and Trump’s newly appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai now running things, carriers can rest easy knowing the Federal Communications Commission wont be hindrance any longer.

The FCC announced today that they’re finally ready to bury the hatchet by putting an end to “the past Commission’s zero-rating inquiries” and recommitting themselves to “permissionless innovation.” The FCC went on to say:

“While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products and services without fear of Commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories.”

Reassuring T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, the FCC reiterated in a letter that they have officially closed the inquiry and that, “Any conclusions, preliminary or otherwise, expressed during the course of the inquiry will have no legal or other meaning or effect going forward.”

In a separate statement, Pai — a staunch opponent of Net Neutrality — also said the FCC would be taking a more hands-off approach when it came to the way carriers handled free-data programs, choosing instead to focus instead on deploying broadband data.

“Today, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into wireless carriers’ free-data offerings. These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace.

Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”

Under Obama’s lead, Wheeler launched an informal inquiry into carrier’s zero-rating schemes. The issue was that by zero-rating their own services over others, carriers were creating an unfair advantage, a slippery slope and something that had the potential of violating Net Neutrality laws.

[FCC statement | via TechCrunch]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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