The FCC’s (News - Alert) ruling on Net Neutrality didn’t bode well with the operators that were against it. So it was only a matter of time until they found ways around the decision that didn’t exactly break the ruling, but bent it to start providing new lines of service that may be viewed as biased.
This bias is, of course, what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hoped it could avoid with its ruling last year. In essence, Net Neutrality is a principle that states Internet service providers (ISPs) should deliver services to everyone on an equal basis, without favoring anyone.
In an article by Gina Narcisi on CRN.com, she highlights the new services being delivered by AT&T, Comcast and Verizon (News - Alert), some of the very same companies that opposed Net Neutrality, which are using existing loopholes to make this happen.
Narcisi says, “Some in the industry view sponsored data programs and "zero-rating" initiatives as being against the spirit of a free, open Internet, because sponsored data can favor the telecom provider's own apps or partner apps, while competing apps or smaller content providers are disadvantaged.”
So what is sponsored data?
Put simply, sponsored data allows brands to push their content without it counting against the customer’s data plan. The sponsors are paying for the data bill that is incurred when you are consuming their content. Since data overages are a big portion of the service providers, the more sponsored data a customer uses, the more the sponsor gets billed.
The biggest service providers currently have similar programs in place. AT&T (News - Alert) has its Sponsored Data, Verizon calls its service FreeBee Data, Comcast's is Stream TV and T-Mobile has Binge On. It is not too farfetched to say the brands that pay for the service may get preferential treatment to get their content delivered faster.
This has led the FCC to ask Comcast (News - Alert), AT&T and T-Mobile to explain these programs: stay tuned for the answers.
These new programs will probably get adopted by everyone that opposed Net Neutrality, which included more than two-dozen broadband companies. And as more providers use this platform to deliver sponsored data, the apps, websites and content that are subsidizing the content will eventually get better access.
For small companies or anyone else that can’t afford to pay for this type of content delivery, it means they are at a great disadvantage. Businesses with deeper pockets will have better access to consumers, again something the Net Neutrality ruling was looking to avoid.
As for AT&T, it has said it will not give sponsored data priority over regular traffic.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson