There’s a new FCC in town and it isn’t wasting any time. Mobile carriers can rest easy today knowing that the Federal Communications Commission is no longer pursuing an investigation into mobile plans that don’t count services like streaming video or music against a user’s data consumption. The practice is more commonly known as zero-rating.
Providers putting forth these plans, which let them deem particular data streams exempt from a consumer’s data bucket, have found themselves in hot water among proponents of net neutrality. Now, that’s all about to change.
Today in a press release, the FCC declared that it would drop the issue altogether. In strong language, the statement said that the FCC will “recommit to permissionless innovation,” letting companies act “without fear of Commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories.”
In a separate statement, new FCC chairman Ajit Pai explained the move:
“Today, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into wireless carriers’ free-data offerings. These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace. Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”
T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon were individually informed of the decision in a short letter:
“Through this letter, I am notifying your company that the Bureau has closed this inquiry. Any conclusions, preliminary or otherwise, expressed during the course of the inquiry will have no legal or other meaning or effect going forward.”
As recently as January, former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had pressed inquiries into these zero-rating deals, arguing that they could create unfair advantages when companies aggressively zero-rate their own services. Of course, with a new administration comes a new attitude toward such regulatory measures, and Pai doesn’t seem to be wasting any time making moves to deregulate the mobile industry.