In a recent announcement, AT&T declared that their wireless subscribers would now be able to enjoy live streaming from DirecTV without exceeding their monthly data cap. This amazing offer is actually an example of a latest practice by AT&T, known as zero-rating.
Interestingly, many consumer advocates has shown their disagreement against this offer. This is because these consumer advocates believe that this offer is actually violating net neutrality and the concept that traffic on internet should be treated in the similar way. However, AT&T subscribers can enjoy this exclusive offer either by using the U-Verse app or through the DirecTV app.
AT&T has guaranteed that the usage will not interfere with their mobile data plan. The company further mentioned that taking advantage of this program was “easy and automatic after registering.”
This offering from AT&T was first reported by Ars Technica. We have witnessed a similar trend from mobile broadband providers, where they rewarded customers with free data, when they access certain services and websites. A similar offer was made by T-Mobile’s Binge On, which is granting their customers’ access to over 100 video services without minimizing their capital data.
These programs, especially the restrictive ones, have suffered great criticism from public interest advocacy groups. The claim made by these groups is that the offerings have the capability to steer subscribes towards services, which are covered by exemptions. Public interest group, Free Press, has also severely criticized these offerings from AT&T.
Matt Wood, the group’s policy director said, “With these schemes, AT&T seems intent on favoring its own video content under the DirecTV brand. That harms both diverse content creators and internet users who already pay so much for their wireless service. This isn’t really free data. It’s a way for AT&T to keep you paying for two services instead of one, and a roadblock designed to prevent you from using your data on any content AT&T doesn’t own.”
AT&T responded to Ars Technica by stating that DirecTV is making payments to its parent company through a sponsored data program. They also mentioned that the other video services could also take advantage of this. The FCC has started an inquiry by sending letters to T-Mobile, Comcast, and AT&T. However, they refused to comment on what they had learned about these offerings by the major companies.
Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “We’re not going to rush it, but we are going to have a thoughtful inquiry and that we will be bringing forth the kind of things that we have discovered in that process when we have completed that thoughtful inquiry.”