AT&T owns DirecTV and DIRECTV NOW, so it makes sense that the telecom is offering a special data plan that favors their new service. The problem? That violates net neutrality, the FCC says.
The heart of this issue is “zero-rating,” a term that means declining to count some types of data against a data cap. In this case, that means that AT&T customers will be burning data as they browse the web, but won’t have to worry about using any data when they stream DIRECTV NOW.
That still uses data in a real sense, of course, but AT&T simply doesn’t count it against the cap – helping boost the appeal of their own service in the process. The FCC is pointing out that such a practice is unfair competition.
There is good news for AT&T, however. The angry noises they’re hearing are coming from the Tom Wheeler-led, Democratic-majority FCC. That FCC will be a thing of the past in just a couple of weeks, when Republicans take over under President Donald Trump (the FCC board has to include a certain number of Republicans and Democrats, but the president’s party holds the majority – for more on how that works, read our FCC explainer).
Once the Republicans take control of the FCC, any actions against AT&T are likely to be dead in the water. Republicans tend to favor the interests of telecoms over net neutrality – in their minds, AT&T has a right to take advantage of a competitive advantage. Liberal thinkers, on the other hand, would tend to call this a monopolistic move.
So Wheeler’s lame-duck FCC won’t be able to do much about it, but they are calling out AT&T for its DIRECTV NOW data plan. They’ve also chastised the company for a similar data plan deal with competitor Verizon.
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