Here's Verizon's Shiny New Assault On Net Neutrality

from the not-with-a-bang-but-with-a-whimper dept

Verizon has joined the chorus of companies testing the FCC’s willingness to enforce its own net neutrality rules. The telco just unveiled something it’s calling FreeBee sponsored data, which effectively lets content companies pay to have their content exempt from wireless user usage caps. Much like AT&T’s controversial sponsored data service, the service makes a mockery of net neutrality in that it lets companies pay to give their content a leg up in the marketplace, putting other competitors at a distinct disadvantage.

According to a Verizon press release, companies can either pay Verizon to have their entire app or website exempted from usage caps (paying Verizon for each byte consumed), or pay Verizon a lump sum to have specific content exempted from usage caps (a video, a single audio file, or an app download). This is, according to Verizon, a wonderful way to add “value and utility” to the overall consumer experience:

“With 1 in 3 Americans now watching videos on their smartphone, and another 100 million on tablets, the business case for mobile is clear,” said Colson Hillier, vice president, Consumer Products at Verizon. “In today’s digital economy, FreeBee Data is a departure from the one size fits all approach to marketing. The opportunity to add value and utility to consumers’ everyday experiences will fundamentally transform how brands and businesses connect with their customers.”

Right, well, no.

While these zero rating efforts are pitched to oblivious consumers as akin to “free shipping” or “1-800 numbers for data,” they’ve been rightly lambasted by critics as a mammoth distortion of the traditionally-level Internet playing field. Whereas deep-pocketed companies can gain marketing advantage by throwing money at Verizon for cap-exempt status, smaller competitors, startups and non-profits won’t enjoy the same luxury. Not only does sponsored data give wealthier, bigger companies an unfair advantage, it gives companies like Verizon (with a generation of documented anti-competitive behavior under its belt) far too much power.

Unlike numerous other countries (Norway, Chile, Netherlands, Japan, Slovenia), the FCC chose to specifically avoid banning zero rating, instead stating it would act on a “case by case basis” to determine what’s anti-competitive, and what’s just creative marketing and pricing. That has opened the door to companies being allowed to brutally violate net neutrality, provided they’re just marginally clever about it.

Comcast, for example, is now exempting its own streaming service from its usage caps, claiming that it doesn’t violate net neutrality because it’s “delivered over Comcast’s managed IP infrastructure” and not the actual Internet. T-Mobile’s now throttling every video service that touches its network by default (and lying about it), but claims this is ok because users can opt out. AT&T and Verizon, meanwhile, are simply letting giant companies pay if they want to gain an utterly unfair competitive advantage over smaller, more shallow-pocketed competitors.

And so far the FCC’s response to these practices has ranged from praising them to weak-kneed promises that the agency is conducting notably informal inquiries. And while it’s entirely possible the FCC wants to see if its neutrality rules withstand ISP lawsuits before leaning on them too heavily, it’s also entirely possible the regulator is simply too timid to actually enforce the rules the public demanded it pass.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: verizon

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 “Here's Verizon's Shiny New Assault On Net Neutrality”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

For the service provider, the cap on data is a way to limit the use (albeit rightfully called out as too crude). Lesser use of data at peak time is the shaping factor for the cost of data on the net.

For the content provider, the cap on data is a frustrating limit for their ability to provide services and thereby earn money. For them it may be valuable to pay the ISP for the extra usage, to increase the traffic on their site!

For the user, caps on data are universally bad. This type of business alleviate a little bit of the data cap frustrations.

So all is fine and dandy in theory, when it comes to the caps.

The problem here is the market distortion effecs:
As soon as you tier your services like that you have not only created a market for content providers to pay for a new product at the ISP, but a new product-differantiation parameter for the customers to take stock of. It is an extra brick in the wall for the lack of consumers understanding. A clear violation of net neutrality and a new revenue stream for ISPs. It is competitively distorting the market for content providers and reducing the economic sense for ISPs to improve the pay per view tier for customers. In spirit this is exactly the same crap as Suckerberg is pushing.

Ninja (profile) says:

So Americans can opt among others in the mobile space:

– Be outright throttled depending on the content being transferred;
– Be locked in if it’s content NOT from the same company that provides the connection;
– Be locked in an universe where only big players reign and smaller ones get shafted (innovative but small services be damned).

Am I missing something?

It’s amusing how they complained that regulation would destroy the net and yet it’s precisely the lack of it that’s spawning a total mess.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

regulation caused this problem to begin with. This is how government works… through regulation they create problems for the agencies and politicians to campaign against.

regulation/deregulation is neither good nor bad. Both can be bad or good and unfortunately the government only seems to implement the bad parts of both while people like you only blame one as bad and one as good despite clear evidence to the contrary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Seriously, you are such a tool, I never said anything was self regulating.

Business will only do what benefits them the most.
In a free market the competition tends to cause regulation in the form of wanting to attract customers from others. This works until an unholy alliance comes in and starts carving up everyone’s little area’s of operation. Just as what the FCC did which is exactly what is was SUPPOSED to prevent.

Regulation is fine and good, so long as that regulation focuses on preventing, lies and deceit from businesses. Preventing the formation of monopolies and removing all obstacles to business operations.

So far regulation from the FCC has CREATE monopolies all over the place, consolidated power into the few large and looming enterprises that everyone just has a revolving door they walk between the two!


You guys are easily fooled. These 3 letter agencies whisper sweet nothings in your ear and you smile as you slowly lose consciousness from the blood loss as the agency’s dagger is twisted in your back.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

…regulation/deregulation is neither good nor bad…

Good regulations puts everybody on an equal footing.

Bad regulations stifles endeavor.

No regulations can be either good or bad.

As the AC points out it appears the government favors bad regulations, or even no regulations to the detriment of the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That is a very narrow view on regulation.

That the devil is in the detail is also my philosophy, but no regulation is rarely the best starting point. Bad legislation is easier to correct than no regulation plus you have made an experience about how not to regulate!

As for government having malicious intent, I see it more as a sign of the kind of fact-less grandstanding debates happening when politics is “us versus them” and when rational decission-making is a distant third behind economic interests and ideological purity.

The ungoverned people in politics are governed by the interest to get elected and when the rational moderates fall in primaries and the ideologically pure fall in the elections, you end up with the economically tied up people. That is the only rational outcome in this type of political system.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

… but no regulation is rarely the best starting point. Bad legislation is easier to correct than no regulation plus you have made an experience about how not to regulate!

So, your starting assumption is that a free market doesn’t work. I assume the opposite. The more free the market, the better it works. Once you introduce compulsion upon the actors to act in specific ways for reasons of policy, the market mechanisms work less efficiently. You don’t get what you want because that’s illegal or artificially (taxation) more expensive than it should be. I also don’t get what I want either for the same reasons.

Who is this government or regulator who thinks it knows better what we want? What are its motivations or prejudices? Are they doing good for all or just muscling in to get a cut of our action? Why should that be tolerated when we are happy to deal freely between each other?

Government is just another gang, the biggest on the block, offering protection for a cut of our action. I think I, with the help of my friends who think likewise, don’t need their protective services. I don’t even approve of what they think I need to be protected from. I really disapprove of how they do all of that.

Welcome to the protection racket.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Economic regulation in its purest form is a market correction mechanism to provide the need for companies to consider other things than money.
If money was the only goal, things like human lives and the environment would be irrational and an economic disadvantage to consider in many cases.

I would argue that Ninja is the one standing on the neither good nor bad side of this argument, compared to the way you formulate.
What is the clear evidence against regulation here? Be aware that contrafactism is very closely related to conspiracy theories and doesn’t provide emissible evidence.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Economic regulation in its purest form is a market correction mechanism to provide the need for companies to consider other things than money.

Weasel words.

What is the clear evidence against regulation here?

What is the clear evidence in favor of regulation? You appear to be assuming the market is inherently unfair. Why? I assume the market is skewed by outsiders when they muscle in between us who’re doing what we each want to do.

I want this, and am willing to pay so much. You’re selling what I want to buy and will sell for $blah. Why would we want anyone or anything sticking its nose into our private affair? What does either of us have to gain from that?

Shouldn’t we be suspicious of those who do want to muscle into our private affair?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s amusing how they complained that regulation would destroy the net and yet it’s precisely the lack of it that’s spawning a total mess.

Yes and no.

Had the FCC took a hard ‘no zero-rating’ stance as other countries have done, then while companies probably wouldn’t have been quite as blatant as they have been you can be sure that they’d still have tried something similar, and given how the FCC is acting now, you’d have basically the same result.

With what we got, if the FCC were simply to develop enough spine to crack down on companies involved in blatant anti-competitive behavior that would likely be enough, making even the current ‘case by case basis’ rules sufficient to ‘dissuade’ companies from acting as such in the future, at least until their greed overcame the memory of the fine and they needed to be slapped down again.

How effective a rule or law is largely depends on the enforcement of it and how that enforcement is perceived. If people and/or companies don’t think you’ll actually do anything should they bend if not outright break it, then they will do exactly that, no matter how ‘strict’ the law is. On the other hand if people and/or companies fully expect you to come down on them like a hammer if you bend or break the law, then even a much lighter law will generally be enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

So silly

The regulations that the government should have implemented:

1. Reasonable rates for data (mobile) and no data caps for wired service
2. An ISP can’t be a content provider
3. Removal of artificial scarcity
4. (I hate that I even have to type this one) fixed ISP pricing where there is no competition…. I know this leads to many other problems which is why I hate it.

If we had these in place either via a free market or {shudder} regulation, there would be no need for net neutrality. Instead we have a the ‘net neutrality’ regulations which we see are doing nothing more than spawning more problems. (mainly because the are not being enforced)

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Techdirt must accept partial blame here.

No one at TD said the new rules were perfect. Indeed, they pointed out that there was scope for abuse. Lo and behold, it seems Karl is right.

You can’t “control” net neutrality, you can only enforce it by levying fines, etc., for breaking the rules. But first they have to be in place.

There is no true net neutrality in the USA. I’m reminded of tqk’s comments RE: predators preying on the weak and vulnerable earlier: that’s what many of the big L’s seem to think of as the market at work. It’s not. It’s cheating.

tqk (profile) says:

Caps, on "unlimited data?" Throttling vs. optimizing? Your "business partners" vs. my wishes?

“With 1 in 3 Americans now watching videos on their smartphone, and another 100 million on tablets, the business case for mobile is clear,” …

Yes it is. I will happily continue to do without. They may prattle on all they want about the landscape having changed and this is now how it’s done. It’s not how I want it done, so every day they insist on foisting on us this Frankenstein Monster way of doing things, I’ll continue to withhold my hard earned cash from them. If it was offered as I often hear Europeans can get it, I’d likely reconsider, but it isn’t so no.

I pay my ISP for net connectivity and can easily do without a cellphone. It’s just an easily foregone luxury item. They don’t get to own me. I decide who my precious dollars enrich and how much, not them.

All they’re doing is slowly but surely pricing themselves out of business. It’ll happen eventually no matter what their micromanaging MBAs may try next. I for one won’t miss them.

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