When a “Zero Rating” is More Than Zero

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: When a “Zero Rating” is More Than Zero

There’s a new dawn at the Federal Confusion Commission!  All that clapping you hear comes from media boardrooms across the nation. The new Chairman – Ajit Pai – and his new Republican majority have arrived.

Decisions about so-called “zero rated” data services have got to be the first issue.  What are they?  They are data services that don’t count against your data usage.  Yep.  In effect, free delivery.  That zero-rated service, though, is usually a promotional one or one owned by the distributor.  Sort of prima facie evidence that is in violation of net neutrality rules … or now not.

According to The Verge, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Comcast each received an identical letter saying, in part: (today/Feb. 3), the long-running (zero rated data services) inquiries have been dropped. “Through this letter, I am notifying your company that the Bureau has closed this inquiry. Any conclusions, preliminary or otherwise, expressed during the course of the inquiry will have no legal or other meaning or effect going forward.”

“Today, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into wireless carriers' free-data offerings,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace. Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”

In other words, “net neutrality” may well be a thing of the past. And free data, albeit at turtle-like speeds, will remain on the menu.

Meanwhile, Morning Tech reported that in Congress: “Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) sponsored legislation that would establish an office of rural broadband initiatives in the Agriculture Department (H.R. 800). ... Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) released a measure that would update policy around the do-not-call registry, so numbers on that list won't receive politically oriented recorded messages (H.R. 740 ). ... And Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) reintroduced two bills aimed at cutting funding for public radio (H.R. 726 and 727).”

That’s not all, either.

Kudos to Chairman Pai for another action: testing the pre-voting release of FCC proposals … a rather radical change from previous rules.  Pai actually thinks the public and Commissioners should have a three-week or so chance to read and review proposed regulations.

Random Notes

I didn’t know when this was written who won Super Bowl LI, but I do know who lost or almost lost the ability to watch it.  As of this writing, subscribers in seven states were at risk of losing the Super Bowl signal.  That’s thanks to a peculiar law that pretty much dictates the winners and losers in negotiations between a cable TV system and a broadcaster.  Called “retransmission consent” it has a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose structure.  A station can demand carriage (it is called must-carry) or the station can demand a monthly per-subscriber fee enabling carriage.  Since most consumers demand their local broadcast stations, cable, telco, satellite or whatever systems pretty much have to carry said stations no matter how ridiculous the fee. Any system not carrying a local broadcast station is sure to get lambasted for “cheating” consumers, never mind that the cost of those stations eventually lands in consumers’ laps. For more details, check out americantelevisionalliance.org.

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