T-Mobile And MetroPCS Go All In On The Horrible Precedent Of Zero Rating

from the setting-the-stage-for-disaster dept

Last year we noted that for being such a supposedly cool CEO, T-Mobile’s John Legere seemed utterly clueless on the subject of net neutrality. Not only did the CEO claim that Title II and new net neutrality rules would “kill innovation” (tip: that didn’t happen), he seemed totally oblivious to the bad precedent set by the company’s zero rating efforts. Those efforts began with T-Mobile’s decision to let some music services bypass user usage caps, which as we’ve discussed at great length puts smaller companies and non-profits at a distinct disadvantage.

But since our regulators (and much of the press and public) seem clueless to the harm of zero rating so far, T-Mobile has decided to expand these efforts. Last week the company started cap-exempting video services, and now the company has announced it’s bringing zero rating to the company’s prepaid wireless brand (MetroPCS) as well. Now the company’s prepaid and postpaid (monthly billed) customers both will find that thirty-three of the biggest music stream services no longer count against their usage caps (yeah, sorry, small independent radio streaming stations too little to get on T-Mobile’s whitelisted radar).

As usual, the move was framed as a huge boon to consumers:

?Once again we are setting MetroPCS apart from the rest of the pack in ways that no one else will,? said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile US. ?MetroPCS is the #1 brand in prepaid because we keep giving customers more of what they want, and today that means adding Music Unlimited and Data Maximizer to the list! Their data will last longer than ever before without ridiculous penalty fees or trickery!”

And like regulators, most of the telecom beat covering T-Mobile has been oblivious to the bad precedent set. They don’t quite yet understand that letting a wireless carrier suddenly decide what traffic gets whitelisted from already-arbitrary usage restrictions sets the stage for a total upheaval of how the Internet works now. They also don’t understand that if it’s ok for T-Mobile to do this, it’s ok for a company like AT&T to do something similar — and AT&T’s version is going to be notably worse. The Los Angeles Times, for example, struggles to see where the problem lies:

“Besides, there’s nothing in the FCC’s neutrality rules that bars data caps, which enable carriers to segment the market and charge higher prices to those who put a higher value on bandwidth. Binge On represents another reduction in the pain caused by data caps, which seems like an unalloyed good thing for consumers.”

But you’re not reducing a “pain point” by creating an arbitrary data cap, then letting some content bypass that cap — you’re just getting in the way of a healthy Internet ecosystem. And just because the FCC lacked the foresight to prohibit zero rating in our net neutrality rules (unlike Chile, Norway, Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Japan, which all bar zero rating), that doesn’t mean this isn’t a potentially horrible idea that’s going to change the face of the Internet. It’s very clear that the perils of zero rating are something we’re eager to experience first hand here in the States, applauding our own “great fortune” all the way.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: metropcs, t-mobile

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “T-Mobile And MetroPCS Go All In On The Horrible Precedent Of Zero Rating”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not all video (or music), it’s just approved sources.

I can’t setup my own server to string audio/video to my phone… and have it be cap-exempt. I have even emailed T-mobile to find out what they recommend for people who have collections of music that aren’t on itunes or other “approved” streaming sites, and they had no response.

Chris Brand says:

It's like a 3rd-party paywall

“You can visit these sites for free. For the rest, your first few visits are free but then you have to pay-per-view”.
That would be fine if it were the sites themselves that choose whether to put up the paywall or not, but it’s problem when it’s somebody else doing so.

The difficulty is that they started off with “Your first few visits are free, but then it’s pay-per-view” and then added “you can visit these sites for free” afterwards, so it’s not nearly as obvious.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Curing congestion...

Glad somebody else gets why these zero-rating programs are not pro-consumer.

Data caps are completely arbitrary, with the sole purpose of bilking every last dollar from customers. As I’ve said elsewhere, lauding T-Mobile for these moves is like thanking someone for only punching you once. Yeah, he could have punched you twice, but that’s not really a good deed.

There’s a better way to deal with congestion (fairly) if the telcos actually cared. You just need to throttle the heavier users on towers approaching capacity. Bandwidth not used is wasted. There’s no reason to place a cap on data transferred when what you’re trying to balance is bandwidth.

T-Mobile already has mechanisms in place to throttle certain users. They just need to make it dynamic in response to current load. When load is light, everyone gets full speed without arbitrary caps. When load approaches capacity, those users who have historically added the most load get throttled down.

Solves congestion, no arbitrary caps, and fairly allocates bandwidth between heavy/light users.

Oh, one other thing. The Binge On program lowers the quality of any zero-rated video. So claiming that it’s an improvement for customers is rather disingenuous. It’s a trade-off, at best. (And only because customers can opt-out.)

Anonymous Coward says:

How is this network neutral?

How they think:

Just to be fair, we’ll set a baseline to overcharge for everything. So we’re neutral, see? Oh, but then we’ll exempt our “friends”. But don’t worry, we’ll still be “fair”. Almost anyone can become our friend for the right amount of money. What could be more fair and neutral that that?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
04:48 Dumb Telecom Take Of The Week: Because The Internet Didn't Explode, Killing Net Neutrality Must Not Have Mattered (23)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
04:55 Axios Parrots A Lot Of Dumb, Debunked Nonsense About Net Neutrality (54)
10:50 NY AG Proves Broadband Industry Funded Phony Public Support For Attack On Net Neutrality (10)
06:24 The GOP Is Using Veterans As Props To Demonize Net Neutrality (22)
06:03 Telecom Using Veterans As Props To Demonize California's New Net Neutrality Law (12)
09:32 AT&T Whines That California Net Neutrality Rules Are Forcing It To Behave (11)
06:23 The New York Times (Falsely) Informs Its 7 Million Readers Net Neutrality Is 'Pointless' (51)
15:34 Facebook's Australian News Ban Did Demonstrate The Evil Of Zero Rating (18)
04:58 'Net Neutrality Hurt Internet Infrastructure Investment' Is The Bad Faith Lie That Simply Won't Die (11)
05:48 Dumb New GOP Talking Point: If You Restore Net Neutrality, You HAVE To Kill Section 230. Just Because! (66)
06:31 DOJ Drops Ridiculous Trump-Era Lawsuit Against California For Passing Net Neutrality Rules (13)
06:27 The Wall Street Journal Kisses Big Telecom's Ass In Whiny Screed About 'Big Tech' (13)
10:45 New Interim FCC Boss Jessica Rosenworcel Will Likely Restore Net Neutrality, Just Not Yet (5)
15:30 Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship' ... By Blocking Access To Them Entirely (81)
05:29 A Few Reminders Before The Tired Net Neutrality Debate Is Rekindled (13)
06:22 U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality. (12)
12:10 FCC Ignores The Courts, Finalizes Facts-Optional Repeal Of Net Neutrality (19)
10:46 It's Opposite Day At The FCC: Rejects All Its Own Legal Arguments Against Net Neutrality To Claim It Can Be The Internet Speech Police (13)
12:05 Blatant Hypocrite Ajit Pai Decides To Move Forward With Bogus, Unconstitutional Rulemaking On Section 230 (178)
06:49 FCC's Pai Puts Final Bullet In Net Neutrality Ahead Of Potential Demotion (25)
06:31 The EU Makes It Clear That 'Zero Rating' Violates Net Neutrality (6)
06:22 DOJ Continues Its Quest To Kill Net Neutrality (And Consumer Protection In General) In California (11)
11:08 Hypocritical AT&T Makes A Mockery Of Itself; Says 230 Should Be Reformed For Real Net Neutrality (28)
06:20 Trump, Big Telecom Continue Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (19)
06:11 Senators Wyden And Markey Make It Clear AT&T Is Violating Net Neutrality (13)
06:31 Net Neutrali-what? AT&T's New Streaming Service Won't Count Against Its Broadband Caps. But Netflix Will. (25)
06:23 Telecom's Latest Dumb Claim: The Internet Only Works During A Pandemic Because We Killed Net Neutrality (49)
13:36 Ex-FCC Staffer Says FCC Authority Given Up In Net Neutrality Repeal Sure Would Prove Handy In A Crisis (13)
06:27 Clarence Thomas Regrets Brand X Decision That Paved Way For The Net Neutrality Wars (11)
More arrow