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.