The Dangers of Zero-Rated Data

T-Mobile's Binge On

The Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) (a lobby group) has commissioned a new study about zero-rated mobile content. The results? An overwhelming 94% of millennials surveyed were more likely to try a new online service if it were part of a free data offering.

“It is no surprise that Americans embrace free data services that offer wireless consumers more data, more competitive choices and more flexibility to try new mobile applications and content. Free data services empower consumers with the freedom to choose what works for their mobile life, and that’s an outcome that everyone should support,” says CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker.

For advocates of net neutrality, the news is less encouraging.

T-Mobile’s Binge On, Music Freedom, et al. are great if you’re a T-Mobile customer, not so much if you’re not. I think people cut TMO a lot of slack because they’re the scrappy underdog. Imagine if it were AT&T or Verizon offering this same zero-rated content; would users be so enthusiastic about it then?

Well, as it turns out, Verizon is exempting its own licensed content from data caps. Here in Canada Bell tried the very same thing, and was famously taken to task by our very own Ben Klass. But zero-rated content remains—Fido subscribers can enjoy free access to Spotify and Daily VICE, while Vidéotron subscribers get zero-rated music from a variety of services.

For me it boils down to this: If carriers—and broadband ISPs, for that matter— are allowed to compete on what is tantamount to exclusive content then we’re ultimately no longer using the Internet; we’re back to the days of disparate online services like AOL and CompuServe. I’d much prefer our data providers to be dumb pipes, competing instead on price and speed.

What do you think?

Sources: CTIA, DSL Reports (1), (2), Fido, Vidéotron

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