FCC to companies: explain your zero-rating data exemptions

The Federal Communications Commission wants to know more about zero-rating data plans — that is, plans like T-Mobile's 'Binge On' that allow customers to stream content from certain providers without it impacting their data caps. T-Mobile isn't the only company with such a plan; AT&T and Comcast will have to offer up explanations, too. The FCC's Chairman Tom Wheeler was careful to state, though, that "this is not an investigation."

Wheeler announced the new request for data today; a letter was sent to AT&T, Comcast, and T-Mobile, and concerns Binge On, AT&T's Sponsored Data and Data Perks, and Comcast's Stream TV. The FCC has requested the companies talk with FCC officials about the plans, helping the commission understand the practices and stay up to date about what they are.

Such zero-rating perks had raised concerns about possible net neutrality issues, but they were laid to rest when the FCC announced it wouldn't be regulating such practices. The commission did, though, say it would be paying attention to the programs, and this is apparently part of that promise coming to fruition.

The letter reads, in part:

[The FCC wants] to ensure that we have all the facts to understand how these services relate to the Commission's goal of maintaining a free and open Internet while incentivizing innovation and investment from all sources.

The companies have until January 15 to respond.

SOURCE: Bloomberg BNA