The Federal Communications Commission issued a report on Wednesday claiming Verizon Wireless and AT&T’s ‘zero-rated’ services violated net neutrality guidelines.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was the primary supporter of the report, published by the Commission’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.
Many see this policy review as one last dissenting shout before the Trump administration takes office on January 20, and Wheeler abandons his post as head of the government agency.
On the other hand, the carriers have dismissed the allegations of the FCC, saying their business models only promote competition in the market and do not harm customers in any way.
What are ‘zero-rated’ services?
‘Zero-rated’ services, in the case of wireless mobile carriers, are plans and offerings that let consumers stream content from some platforms without charging them for it.
Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360 and AT&T’s DirecTV Now are sponsored data programs that provide access to certain platforms and services virtually free of data consumption charges.
In AT&T’s case, the advantage to subscribers is huge since the DirecTV catalog is vast, and the content they stream does not register on their monthly data cap. The same happens to a lesser extent with Verizon’s Go90 platform.
This technique is quickly spreading across the industry, and it is clearly against the Open Internet Order of 2015, which upholds net neutrality above unfair business practices and non-ethical competition in the consumer market.
The FCC report is pointless without legal action
As several outlets have said, the latest report by the FCC lacks purpose since the current leadership has run out of time to take concrete steps against these companies and their malpractices.
Chairman Tom Wheeler is on his way out, as he is scheduled to voluntarily step down from his position following Donald Trump’s inauguration next January 20.
The Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai is widely believed to be the top choice of the President-Elect to take over the agency. Pai vocally opposed the findings of the report, saying they did not reflect the majority view of the Commission.
Is there something people can do about it?
Citizens can always write a letter and send it to their state representatives in Congress and the Senate, voicing their thoughts on any matter that is currently or should be on the House floor for discussion.
Upon learning of the FCC policy review this Wednesday, a Democrat parliamentary block led by Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts (D) issued a statement in support of the Commission’s conclusions on ‘zero-rated’ programs.
Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Al Franken of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut backed Markey’s official statement.
Each Congress member and Senator has their own dedicated government site, and there is a Contact section available with a pre-formatted form that allows people to write to them about anything they feel is of importance.
In the Contact section, there are also multiple telephone numbers and addresses to the representative’s offices, and citizens can also track their Senate or Congress member’s record in his position on the site.