from the slippery-slope dept
Of course you're not getting something for free. Usage caps are entirely arbitrary, untethered from financial or network performance necessity. They're an artificial construct, and allowing some services to bypass them (for a fee or otherwise) puts the ISP in the powerful position of picking winners and losers, instead of just doing its job (the delivery of bits). When it comes to net neutrality, the battlefield is no longer focused on ham-fisted throttling or blocking of services, it has shifted to more nuanced and clever abuses of gatekeeper power including interconnection, usage caps, and zero rating.
Last year T-Mobile introduced its first foray into zero rating called Music Freedom. Under the program, the biggest and most popular music services no longer count against user usage caps. That's great if you're, say, Spotify or Pandora, but not so great if you're an independent streaming radio station operating out of Cleveland, or an innovative new startup not yet on most users' radar. This kind of practice does violate neutrality, even if most regulators are painfully and utterly oblivious to the problem, but the violation isn't as idiotically obvious as the kind of neutrality infractions we're used to.
With its music zero rating efforts well underway, T-Mobile is now rumored to be planning to zero rate the biggest video services including Netflix, Sling TV and HBO. While the plan isn't supposed to be unveiled until November 10, early news of the plan was revealed on Twitter by reliable leaker and reporter Evan Blass:
T-Mobile's Uncarrier 10 to offer unlimited high speed data for watching select streaming video services like Netflix, HBO, etc.— Evan Blass (@evleaks) October 29, 2015
.@JohnLegere Is it called BingeOn, by any chance, compatible with Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Sling (all of whom will offer discounts)?— Evan Blass (@evleaks) October 29, 2015
Don’t let the gov’t kill innovation. It has made us the fastest growing wireless company in America. #netneutrality— John Legere (@JohnLegere) November 10, 2014
And while plenty of consumers, reporters, and analysts will be superficially thrilled by such a model, letting a carrier give preferential treatment to one app over another sets the stage for a future Internet where startups and independents are relegated to the outer fringes of the 'Net. It's a neutrality slippery slope we seem intent on running directly toward, cheering all the way.