Twenty20

Zero rating: Streaming video gets a break

Sports fans just had quite a win. No, not just Patriots fans, but all fans of sports on-the-go are winners as a result of the recent decision of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Bureau to close an inquiry into the use of “zero rating” plans by mobile carriers.  Such plans have proven popular with consumers, who can enjoy a host of streaming entertainment choices without having it count against their data plans.  T-Mobile started the zero rating competitive battle with its Binge On program, and mobile rivals followed with their own plans:  Verizon with the NFL Mobile app and Stream Pass (hosting a variety of sports programming), AT&T’s DirectTV and DirectTV Now, and Sprint with Copa América Centenario, to name a few.  By closing its investigation into some of these, or similar plans, the FCC has assured that mobile consumers can continue to enjoy free data.  But the inquiry process revealed one thing that the FCC should address sooner rather than later — the General Conduct Rule of the Open Internet Order used to evaluate the zero rating programs is dangerously vague and raises uncertainty in the marketplace that can depress innovation and competition.