Free Data Programs From T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast Scrutinized by FCC

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Dec 17, 2015.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

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    The United States Federal Communications Commission yesterday sent letters to T-Mobile, AT&T, and Comcast questioning the companies about mobile services that allow customers to access certain content without paying for the data usage, reports Bloomberg. While the FCC has been careful to note the inquiry is "not an investigation" and designed to help the FCC "stay informed as to what the practices are," there have been some questions about whether such services violate net neutrality rules.

    Under scrutiny is T-Mobile's Binge On program, which allows customers to stream 480p video that doesn't count against a data cap, AT&T's Sponsored Data program that lets AT&T customers view sponsored content for free, and Comcast's Stream TV, a video service that does not count against data caps in areas where data caps are imposed. Ars Technica has uploaded a copy of the letters that were sent to the three companies.

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    Back in February, the FCC voted in favor of new net neutrality rules preventing Internet providers from blocking or throttling web traffic or offering prioritized service for payment, but it has not specifically addressed these "zero-rating" data exemption programs. Last month, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the organization would keep an eye on T-Mobile's Binge On service, but praised it as being both "highly innovative and highly competitive."

    In a statement, a T-Mobile spokesperson said the company is "looking forward" to talking with the FCC, and believes Binge On is "absolutely in line with net-neutrality rules." Comcast expressed a similar sentiment, stating it looks forward "to participating in the FCC's fact-gathering process relating to industry practices." An AT&T spokesperson said AT&T is committed to "innovation without permission" and expressed hope the FCC is too.

    The FCC has requested "relevant technical and business" representatives from T-Mobile, AT&T, and Comcast be made available for discussions by January 15.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: Free Data Programs From T-Mobile, AT&T and Comcast Scrutinized by FCC
     
  2. Shadow Runner macrumors regular

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    As long as T-Mobile lets any and all apps that stream video have access to the free data for users, I don't see a problem with it.
     
  3. oneMadRssn macrumors 68040

    oneMadRssn

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    I think the important question that should be asked is, will this harm competitive conditions in an unfair way?

    Taking T-Mobiles Binge-On program for example, if any video streaming startup can easily qualify for the zero-rating by using a certain freely available codec with certain settings, and anyone can easily implement this, it seems fine to me. If qualifying for the zero-rating requires jumping through timely and/or expensive hoops, then it seems anti-competitive and unfair to me.
     
  4. E3BK macrumors 68020

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    They aren't giving the content away. You still have to be paying for those other services and can be watched/listened to on other devices. Just the ability to stream then over data is free. No diff from streaming over WiFi in this case.

    I see what you are saying here. Would be curious to know this as well. Does the fact that all these services are available on other platforms affect this decision?
     
  5. KPOM macrumors G5

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    This is why net neutrality is stupid. It leads to micromanagement by regulators.
     
  6. joueboy macrumors 65816

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    Obviously this practice is questionable but I'm not against it because it benefits me as a T-Mobile customer. But how in the world these carriers can give this much data and act like it's hurting their network on the other. So there's actually no network congestion to begin with. And it doesn't cost them anything other than to put more towers to reach some areas. They spend more money advertising how much better their network instead of improving their network.
     
  7. miknos macrumors 6502a

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    MY GOD! How dare companies offer promotions to lure customers!

    Politicians should stay away from EVERYTHING.
     
  8. 556fmjoe macrumors 65816

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    I'm glad the government is ready to protect us in case these companies exploit us by providing better service.
     
  9. Andres Cantu macrumors 68030

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    That sums it up quite well, actually.
     
  10. ThunderSkunk macrumors 68020

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    I hate the government and wish I still lived in the 1400s.
     
  11. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

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    Darn, this article really highlights how out out touch I am. I didn't even know net neutrality was voted through. Sad news.
     
  12. cmwade77 macrumors 6502a

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    I think the AT&T and Comcast ones may be problematic, but the T-Mobile one is definitely ok. Think about it this way, with T-Mobile, you are agreeing to a lower quality stream and in exchange, T-Mobile is saying because we are sending it to you at a lower quality, we will not count it against your high speed data cap. And you have the option to have the full high quality streams, but that will count against your high speed data cap. The consumer has full control over which way they want to go. Additionally, T-Mobile has said that it is open to any service that wishes to participate, their only requirement is that video packets are easily identifiable separately from packets from other content on each site.

    They did the same kind of thing with music and that was determined to be ok as well.

    Now in all fairness to the FCC, they have been a bit oblivious in recent history with things like AT&T throttling unlimited plans, etc. and in this case they are simply saying they want to understand what is happening and how it may impact various services and consumers. I think the FCC doing their research like this is actually a good thing and I don't think it will lead to a full blown investigation, as that's the point, they need to simply look into it and make sure all is good. Since it appears to be in this case, I don't see that there will be an issue.
     
  13. Renzatic Suspended

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    It's actually pretty easy in this case. They either have to give it all away for free, or charge for access to it all. Telcos aren't allowed to give preferential treatment to any one line of data over another.
     
  14. Renzatic Suspended

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    You do know that the internet has been functioning under net neutrality since it's inception, right?
     
  15. mrkramer macrumors 603

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    Would you be saying the same thing if they were charging the companies to be available on that service, and keeping smaller companies from being usable?

    I think as it is since T-mobile appears to allow any streaming video app access to the service it should be ok, but it does run a risk of being very anticompetitive, so it is good the FCC is keeping an eye on it.
     
  16. mlody macrumors 6502a

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    FCC better worries about band 12 in Chicago then this non-sense. As it stands now, T-mobile's in the building coverage in Chicago and suburbs is horrendous.
     
  17. Renzatic, Dec 17, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2015

    Renzatic Suspended

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    I think it's funny that the usual bunch of anti regulation laissez-faire people are arguing against restrictions that allow the one truest form of laissez-faire capitalism the world has seen to be gamed by those who merely provide the gateway to it.

    ISPs should only be allowed to do one thing for me: charge me access to the internet at large. I don't want them picking and choosing what gets to me, what doesn't, and what I have to pay more for based upon nothing but their own whims.
     
  18. KPOM macrumors G5

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    Which is stupid. If Spotify wants to pay T-Mobile to promote their service, why not?
     
  19. KALLT macrumors 601

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    Even if T-Mobile's service is beneficial to its customers, there is always someone on the losing end when a provider breaks the net neutrality. They effectively manipulate you into using the Internet in a particular way, because it serves their own monetary interests better. But they are potentially making it difficult for direct competitors or competitors in unrelated markets to operate on the same terms. It doesn't need to be complicated, the provider should just not get involved in selecting data based on origin or content, whether for positive or negative ends.
     
  20. Renzatic Suspended

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    Actually, I think that is allowed.

    The FCC is only concerned about the flow of information, not who pays what to whom for promotions. If Spotify pays T-Mobile to promote their app, that's fine. What they can't do is give T-Mobile some cash, tell them to give preferential treatment to their service, and make throttling Pandora or Apple Music on their network a part of the bargain.
     
  21. larrylaffer macrumors 6502

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    You just provided an excellent example of an anti-competitive business practice.
     
  22. larrylaffer macrumors 6502

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    I think the part you're saying they can't do was basically implied by the post you're quoting.
     
  23. KALLT macrumors 601

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    I presume that with promote you mean not just advertising.

    Because it is a potential for abuse. What if only a strong company like Spotify could afford this? Suppose there is a brand-new streaming service that blows Spotify out of the water. Spotify customers will say: I have no data cap with Spotify, so I'd rather not use this new service. This is already happening with Apple Music and it's a direct disadvantage that Apple could not do anything about, except contracting with the providers directly.

    Suppose also there is a another type of new service that makes Spotify obsolete, but wouldn't strictly fall under T-Mobile's offer. You'd get in the position where customers are incentivised to use the existing service instead. The question you need to ask yourself is: why should your provider have any say about the data? You are paying them for access to the Internet. By analysing data packets, they are obtaining a position of power that they shouldn't have.
     
  24. Renzatic Suspended

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    I'm kind of addressing two things at once here.

    What Spotify can do is offer T-Mobile some money, and give their subscribers free access to the service as a bonus.

    What they can't do is give T-Mobile some money, and say "hey, you can stream us unlimited while on LTE without incurring any overages or penalties, but Pandora or Apple Music is going to cost you some data."
     
  25. KALLT macrumors 601

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    That would not be about net neutrality, but about abuse of dominance or collusion. In some regions/countries, you often don't have much to choose when it comes to providers. Bundling two services together can be bad for competition too.
     

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