Thursday, December 17, 2015

FCC Wants Information on Binge On, Comcast Stream TV and AT&T Sponsored Data Programs

As it said it would, the Federal Communications Commission is asking some leading U.S. Internet service providers for information about programs that provide access to apps without incurring usage charges on a data plan.

Letters asking ISPs to share information about their programs have been sent to AT&T, Comcast and T-Mobile.

"As you may be aware, concerns have been expressed about these programs, for example, some have argued that sponsored data unfairly advantages incumbent content providers," the letter to AT&T said. "We want to ensure that we have all the facts to understand how these services relate to the commission's goal of maintaining a free and open Internet while incentivizing innovation and investment from all sources."

The T-Mobile US "Binge On" policy that does not count some digital video services against data limits.

Comcast’s "Stream TV" does not count usage against data caps.

AT&T has a "sponsored data plan" programs that allow content providers to subsidize users' wireless data.

Some view any business practices that allow third parties to underwrite data consumption, or carrier programs to exempt video and audio traffic from data usage charges, as violations of network neutrality. Others disagree.

The T-Mobile US program is open to all music or video providers. So the issue is whether exempting a whole class of apps from data charges is a violation of network neutrality rules.

Others see sponsored data as a business practice no different than toll-free calling or ad-supported TV and radio.  

Comcast’s service appears to be a “managed service,” exempt from network neutrality rules, some would argue.

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