Verizon Gives Net Neutrality A Giant Middle Finger, Exempts Own Video Service From Wireless Usage Caps

from the ill-communication dept

In 2010, Verizon successfully sued to demolish the FCC’s original net neutrality rules. In 2015, Verizon joined the rest of the industry in helping launch a barrage of lawsuits to try kill and kill a more legally-sound and updated version of those same rules. While that case continues through the courts, Verizon has made it clear that 2016 will be the year the telco raises a giant middle finger to the FCC and net neutrality supporters alike.

The company sent an e-mail to Verizon Wireless customers this week informing them that using the carrier’s Millennial-focused Go90 streaming video service will no longer count against the company’s mobile broadband usage caps. As in, Verizon has decided to give its own streaming video service an incredibly unfair advantage over any rival services. According to an updated customer agreement website, the change in policy only occurred this week after the company updated the company’s app to version 1.4:

“Beginning on or about February 4, 2016, if you are a Verizon Wireless post-paid customer and you download the current version of go90 (release 1.4), you can watch any video on go90 without incurring Verizon Wireless data usage charges so long as you are connected to LTE. Other activity that does not involve watching videos, such as downloading go90 from an app store, browsing or searching for shows, posting comments, sharing clips and viewing settings will incur data usage charges.”

Verizon’s decision to zero rate its own streaming video services comes on the heels of the company’s launch of something it’s calling “Free Bee sponsored data.” Under that program, companies can pay Verizon to have specific content (like a single video) or entire websites or apps cap-exempted. Between Free Bee and this week’s announcement, Verizon’s apparently decided to show the public just how little of a shit it gives about net neutrality advocate concerns.

Of course Verizon’s simply following on the heels of related zero rating efforts by AT&T, Comcast, and T-Mobile. AT&T’s been testing a sponsored data program for a few years now. T-Mobile’s Binge On service exempts streaming video services from the company’s usage caps, throttling all services to 1.5 Mbps by default. Comcast’s also gotten in on the game, exempting its own streaming video service from the company’s slowly-expanding usage caps.

We’ve noted for some time how the practice of zero rating is an absolutely horrible precedent, given that by giving some deeper-pocketed services a leg up, you’re automatically putting smaller companies, startups, non-profits, and educational services at a distinct disadvantage. While T-Mobile may have opened the door with a program that skirts the edges of good taste, Comcast and Verizon have walked right through the door, and are downright laughing in the face of net neutrality by exempting their own services from caps.

And again, so far the FCC has done little more than nod dumbly as companies make a mockery of the idea of an open, level Internet. While the FCC says it has fired off some “informal,” low-level inquiries asking carriers for more detail, the agency has given absolutely no serious indication that it intends to thwart the practice of zero rating any time soon. The irony of course is that as Verizon’s tries to shed its reputation as a stodgy old phone company by desperately wooing Millennials, it’s making it abundantly clear the company just can’t seem to shed Ma Bell era behavior.

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Comments on “Verizon Gives Net Neutrality A Giant Middle Finger, Exempts Own Video Service From Wireless Usage Caps”

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39 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

No Suprise

From the get go I told everyone that the FCC was the cause of the problem to begin with and they are not likely to solve the problem, yet everyone ignorantly got all their hopes up that the FCC would for ONCE, in its fucking history, do its damn job.

I am going to believe it when I fucking see it… and the rest of you little ‘regulation’ fanboi’s can just keep bitching about wanting more regulation that will not work until someone grows a fucking spine and tells congress… fix the problem or else.

Not even in the American People… can a spine be found.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No Suprise

The problem has been the same one since forever and is two fold.

The first is a lazy electorate that cannot be bothered to vote out their favorite congressional turd.

The second is an electorate that thoroughly enjoys government corruption because it does serve them in the districts that they voted in their favorite turd.

It is clear that the American People care not so long as they get some sort of scraps from the table. We all have long forgotten what it means for government to say no… we should not be managing or regulating that.

It never ceases to amaze me that people will beg for regulation then expect to not lose any liberty over it, and even worse… expect for government which is usually what caused the problem to begin with to cure it with said regulation!

Government is an entity that eternally causes MORE problems than it will ever solve, but you will never get the ignorant masses to ever understand it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: No Suprise

…a lazy electorate that cannot be bothered to vote out their favorite congressional turd…

I’ve lost track of when I had an actual candidate who was worth anything to vote for. I feel like I’m voting for the lesser of evils. And that’s when I have an actual choice; a few times only the incumbent was on the ballot.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: No Suprise

Yeah, that’d go over great…

“Hey, congress, we know that you rake in tons of money from the cable companies, who donate lavishly to a good number of you, but we’d like you to write up the laws keeping abuse by the cable companies down.

Now we know this will almost certainly impact their potential profits by setting in place limits to curtail their more obvious abuses, and they will almost certainly threaten if not actually withhold donations from those politicians that do this, but we trust that you’ll look past the significant loss of money to do the right thing by the american public.

P.S. And pretty please don’t take this opportunity to make ‘rules’ that are pathetically weak, and basically allow the cable companies to do whatever they want, and/or defund the government agencies that are supposed to enforce the rules such that it doesn’t matter if the cable companies do violate them, they can’t be investigated or prosecuted for their violations.”

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: governmental instability

I wish I could find the source, but a friend once showed me an analysis claiming that our form of government is inherently unstable. People will vote into their own wallets and continue until the system fails.

I have always hoped that the projection was wrong and that we will make the needed corrections before we see a crash. I still hope so, although that doesn’t make what I see any less scary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 governmental instability

I was listening to an interview on the BBCs today programme the other day with Jimmy Carter who said that when he ran for president they all had campaigns costing around $80k that were funded publicly by money donated by the people (1$ per person) on their tax returns.

He compared the current campaigns as legal bribery and said he would never have made president in the current state of things.

It sounds like your friends analysis was correct.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 governmental instability

And therein lies one of the main problems, how insanely expensive it is to get elected, and then get re-elected.

It costs such a massive amount that anyone who makes it into office pretty much has to sell out to large companies to get the money to have done so, and once they’re in office those companies want a return on their ‘investment’, and if they don’t get it then they’re not likely to spend any money come next election.

Though I’m sure the idea could use some hefty tweaking, a general idea to fix this would be to make it so that election funds were anonymized and generalized, such that you could donate to election funds in general, but the various candidates would all draw from the same pool.

The idea has got some hefty flaws to be sure, the first among them being that given ‘money is speech’ for all intents and purposes these days it would have a high likelihood of causing people’s ‘speech’ to support those that they themselves do not, but the general idea, that of making it as difficult as possible for companies to basically by politicians buy bankrolling their elections I’d think is a sound one.

Take the requirement to pander to large companies if you want to get elected out of the equation, and you take a large part of the motivation on both sides to do so.

AJ says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Suprise

“Makes having a government kind of useless then. If the moment they are offered a bribe they forswear their oaths.”

Not useless, just difficult. There are plenty of things we could do to mitigate corruption. The problem is, those that have the ability to mitigate the corruption are they themselves corrupt. Not to worry. The people will get sick of it eventually and restore the balance, but if history is any indicator, it’s going to be very painful time when it happens.

Whatever (profile) says:

Wash, rinse, repeat

It’s the story of Karl. 🙂 It’s incredible that you can write almost the same story every day.

Seriously thought… it’s hard to see that the various companies feel that they can offer “over the top” services which do not count against bandwidth. If they didn’t think they had a legal leg to start on, they might not be going here, at least without so much enthusiasm.

My take is that the amount of bandwidth available is a contractual issue and not a neutrality issue. If you can reach all sites without impairment, the meaning and core of net neutrality has been met. That your service contract my only let you stream a half a dozen movies a month in that amount of bandwidth is not a neutrality issue.

Over the top zero rating services (especially those with an additional price tag on them) are not against neutrality, not any more than selling extra bandwidth or even having a more expensive unlimited plan. It’s a consumers choice at that point.

There is a point where it’s just a business and consumer choice to offer services beyond just a pipe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wash, rinse, repeat

Apologist apologies – film at eleven.

“If they didn’t think they had a legal leg to start on … “

Yeah – sort of like the bankers who thought they had a “legal leg” to launder drug money. Perhaps the term legal leg means inside connections? Because we all know there were no bankers investigated much less prosecuted.

“the amount of bandwidth available is a contractual issue and not a neutrality issue”

Perhaps you do not understand what the neutrality issue is about?

” If you can reach all sites without impairment, the meaning and core of net neutrality has been met”

Really?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Wash, rinse, repeat

You seem to have an interesting take on net neutrality if treating different sites/data differently doesn’t count as a violation.

Way I see it, net neutrality at the core can be summed up as follows:

All sites, and all data, are treated the same, such that data from site A is treated the same as data from site B. Doesn’t matter what the site is, what the data is, it receives the same treatment when it’s being transferred over the network, taking only into account the ability of the network to handle the traffic in question.

Given the above, zero-rating is a direct violation of net neutrality, as it allows the ISP’s to treat data/sites differently at their whim, or more often based upon who paid them. No longer are A and B treated the same, now one can have special benefits over the other, allowing it to get a competitive advantage simply because it was willing and/or able to pay more to the ISP.

Over the top zero rating services (especially those with an additional price tag on them) are not against neutrality, not any more than selling extra bandwidth or even having a more expensive unlimited plan. It’s a consumers choice at that point.

No, it’s not, because the consumer isn’t the one deciding which sites get the special treatment, the ISP is.

A customer deciding to pay more for a faster connection is a ‘consumer choice’.

A customer deciding to pay more for more monthly data to increase the (artificial) data cap is a ‘consumer choice’.

An ISP deciding what sites and/or services don’t count towards that cap based upon which ones paid them is not a ‘consumer choice’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Wash, rinse, repeat

The real problem is not zero rating it’s data caps, where I live we’ve had zero rating on some local content for years ( we are an island nation so encouraging people to access local content takes the strain off the submarine cables (only 2) that connect us to the world).
One provider had a deal with one of the television networks and another with the other one. When we had data caps it could affect your monthly bill if you used one of these providers, or didn’t. But now it is very cheap to get an unlimited connection and zero rating is no longer a selling point for any of the providers.

(copied and pasted from the post about India – which is having an identical argument)

klaus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Wash, rinse, repeat

“The real problem is not zero rating it’s data caps”

My take is that both of these are problems. You can have no caps whatsoever, but if you’re trying to stream video and your mobile provider is artificially hobbling your speed, you’re not going to be too pleased.

I’m also non US but take an interest in these goings on, partly because of US dominance, partly because corporate dickery travels well.

analyst1 says:

Verizon vs Net Neutrality

FCC is not the one to take notice of how big Verizon middle finger grows or how it gets dirty and tainted. FCC makes its own rulings as it is a regulatory arm of the government that looks after the economic stability from time to time, whether it is net neutrality, cable box excessive monthly rental fees, broadband progress and agencies throttling the broadband, facilitate and assist open broadcast networks, effective use of wired and mobile connections to improve signals for progressive development over the urban and rural geographic area that make economic sense to all sets of people whether they are rich or poor as these issues are essential and necessary to all of the people.

Suomynona (user link) says:

go90 - Really?

(How did I submit the above message early?)

(Disclaimer: I’m a retired VzW employee. We got absorbed, then later on my area got shut down. They did try to give us a place to go, but NJ is not my cup of tea.)

I would strongly suggest that EVERYONE go to go90, find the longest video they can, put it on CONTINUOUS or LOOP if possible, and play it while charging up the phone at night.

After all, it’s dark and “Go90 no longer counts against usage caps” — you need a good night light to scare away all of the scary monsters out there. What better way to scare a monster away than with another one?

—-

This whole thing indicates that VzW considers “airwaves/4G” and internal network routing not to be a problem, it’s data egress to “the proper internet” that is costly and must be controlled.

Median Wilfred says:

Re: You've got it all wrong!

No, no, no. It’s not that airwaves/4G” and internal network routing are a problem! Not at all!

You see, Verizon has developed a smaller byte! They’ve taken a bit or two out of it, due to Turing Completeness. That makes their streaming formats much smaller than other vendors, who still use the gross old “fat bytes”, which have 8-bits each.

Silly, people, Ma Bell knows best!

Zonker says:

I would like to see all states fed up with these shenanigans make it so that any data capped ISP falls under central assessment of their property tax, with a tax abatement “cap” set so low that the ISP would be sure to cross the threshold within a couple of days of operation every month. Zero rate an amount of tax relative to the amount of infrastructure improvements completed in areas currently lacking sufficient broadband service.

Normal tax rates for ISPs with no data cap, but still zero rate infrastructure improvements.

Tiger1 (profile) says:

The whole point of this push is to turn the idea of Net Neutrality on its head. Rather than it being a consumer concern about what these companies might charge people in the future, they are trying to frame it as, “look at what Net Neutrality is keeping us from offering you?”

And the bad part is that their opponents are playing right into it–including Techdirt.

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