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FCC drops all inquiries into Binge On and other zero-rating programs

As the FCC moves into a new era that, under new Chairman Ajit Pai, looks to cut down on regulations that purportedly impede innovation, it has reported that all inquires into sponsored data programs will be stopped.

Under Tom Wheeler, who former President Barack Obama appointed Chairman in 2013, the FCC began sending letters to the top U.S. network providers, including T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon, on their use of "sponsored data programs" that either allowed companies to pay for the right to forgive the cost of certain blocks of traffic, or "zero-rate" traffic from an entire website or app.

T-Mobile has made this the most consumer-facing with its Binge On promotion, which under its new T-Mobile One plan doesn't count any video from most sources, including YouTube, towards one's monthly allotment. That video, however, is streamed at a lower bitrate than it otherwise would be, and preferences large media companies that have the power to negotiate deals with T-Mobile and its competition.

In a letter sent to the companies above, and a statement posted on its website, the FCC makes its intentions under this administration very clear:

Today, the Commission finally puts an end to the past Commission's zero-rating inquiries and recommits to permissionless innovation. 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.

That it "recommits to permissionless innovation" is a good thing for consumers in its eye, but the language around "just a first step" implies that under Pai, the FCC will dismantle Title II and the net neutrality clauses that are held within it.

Daniel Bader is a Senior Editor at iMore, offering his Canadian analysis on Apple and its awesome products. In addition to writing and producing, Daniel regularly appears on Canadian networks CBC and CTV as a technology analyst.

3 Comments
  • "and preferences large media companies that have the power to negotiate deals with T-Mobile" T-Mobile does not charge any media companies to be zero-rated.
  • DBSync, thank you. I agree with the sentiment of this article, but it lost credibility right here. I'm not trying to say T-Mobile is doing the "right" thing, but it's the most neutral/fair implementation.
  • T-Mobile has stated any company that will adjust their app to stream video at 480p "DVD quality" then they can become a binge on partner. I love the changes they've brought to the cellular carriers. Verizon and AT&T have had to change their plans, offering more than either have in the past to remain competitive. I've been with both. I was happy when I left both. I truly enjoy being a T-Mobile customer. They essentially think of everything I'd want and do it. Unlimited data - check
    No overages - check
    Cost less - check (4 lines cost $50 less per month then 3 with AT&T)
    Stream video for free - check
    Free hotspot - check 14gb/month Anything else? Yeah give me free stuff Okay! Every week T-Mobile Tuesday Free movie tickets
    Free Amazon gift card
    Free pizza
    Free movie rentals weekly
    Free MLB t-shirts
    Etc etc Why wouldn't you want to switch? Network sucks? Umm no! Faster speeds and better coverage/penetration in the building where I work then AT&T. Verizon is just as good, but not any better and cost twice as much without unlimited data. I don't work for T-Mobile, but have really appreciated what they've done over the last 2 years! Sent from the iMore App