Tech companies in favor of net neutrality rules are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make its position known to the public with regards to zero rating services that are potentially in violation of said rules. More than 50 firms, including familiar names such as Pinterest, Kickstarter, Foursquare and Yelp, have sent a letter to the FCC, effectively requesting the agency to be more open about its review of wireless streaming freebies currently being offered by a number of providers.
For those not familiar with zero rating, it is a practice in which wireless carriers or broadband service providers offer certain services or mobile apps that do not affect the monthly data allowances of their respective subscribers. A good example of this is Binge On from T-Mobile, which lets the wireless carrier’s subscribers enjoy unlimited video streaming from a specific list of content providers without worrying about their data caps being affected. Another example is the FreeBee program from industry leader Verizon Wireless, which allows a content provider to pay for a mobile user’s data usage as long as that customer uses the provider’s service.
Obviously, zero rating offers can be a boon to mobile users, but in some circles, the practice is viewed as in direct violation of net neutrality rules, which dictates that all services available on the web be treated equally. The critics are essentially saying that zero rating offers are harmful to smaller providers who may not be able to provide similar deals because they can simply can not afford to.
When the FCC started adopted net neutrality rules back in February of last year, there was no specific guideline regarding the ban of zero rating deals. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the FCC is utilizing an approach that calls for a case to case review of every zero rating offer. The FCC has also made a move to collect information from those who provide such deals, but as far as anybody is concerned, it appears that the agency has yet to state its position regarding the matter.
As for the tech firms that sent the letter to the FCC, getting an answer now is crucial. For sure, more zero rated deals will be introduced in the near future, and service providers simply need to know now if they can or can not under the net neutrality rules set by the FCC. If the agency continues to keep mum on this topic, then it looks like the debate will keep raging on and on.
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