Concerned about net neutrality, FCC probes Comcast, T-Mobile, & AT&T over data cap exemptions

Posted:
in General Discussion
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has issued letters to Comcast, T-Mobile, and AT&T, asking for more information on perks that exempt some services from counting towards Internet users' data caps.




The agency wants to "have all the facts" on how the perks relate "to the Commission's goal of maintaining a free and open Internet while incentivizing innovation and investment from all sources," the FCC said in each letter, according to The Hill. The FCC is presumably concerned that such perks violate net neutrality, prioritizing some services' traffic in a way that rival services can't hope to compete with.

T-Mobile, for instance, offers Music Freedom and Binge On, which exclude some -- but not all -- third-party music and video services from caps. Comcast's Stream TV offers a proprietary mix of live and on-demand content, while AT&T is simply marketing "sponsored data," allowing any outside party to pay for customers' data consumption.

All three companies have denied any wrongdoing, with Comcast in particular describing its offering as a "cable service" that "only works in the customer's home" and "does not go over the public Internet." The option is available only to Xfinity Internet customers.

During a Thursday press conference announcing the letters, FCC chaiman Tom Wheeler insisted that there was no investigation underway, and that the agency is simply trying to stay informed about industry practices. Republican commissioner Ajit Pai argued that the letters are "not simply a benign information inquiry," with an obvious net neutrality agenda. Commissioners wanting to keep up on the industry should be able to meet with companies without sending out formal letters, he said.

The letters in fact call for all three named corporations to "make available relevant technical and business personnel for discussions" by Jan. 15.
mnbob1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    Net Neutrality is just doublespeak for "more government intrusion". People who demand free stuff shouldn't be surprised when it turns out there's no such thing as a free lunch and the greater is government's involvement, less freedom of choice is available to the public. Deregulation and competition (not industry + government collaboration) means companies fighting for consumer dollars.
    edited December 2015 mike1
  • Reply 2 of 10
    jm6032jm6032 Posts: 147member
    My impression was that net neutrality was more akin to throttling. And, more towards charging content providers different amounts depending on if they were a competitor. 

    It it seems to me that offering some content for free to a customer does not explicitly violate those notions. 
    latifbp
  • Reply 3 of 10
    Net Neutrality is just doublespeak for "more government intrusion". People who demand free stuff shouldn't be surprised when it turns out there's no such thing as a free lunch and the greater is government's involvement, less freedom of choice is available to the public. Deregulation and competition (not industry + government collaboration) means companies fighting for consumer dollars.
    I suppose this would be nice but as long as public companies put stockholders above customers, we need a third party like the government to minimize the abuse.
    lostkiwimnbob1latifbpiosenthusiast
  • Reply 4 of 10
    Net Neutrality is just doublespeak for "more government intrusion". People who demand free stuff shouldn't be surprised when it turns out there's no such thing as a free lunch and the greater is government's involvement, less freedom of choice is available to the public. Deregulation and competition (not industry + government collaboration) means companies fighting for consumer dollars.
    Competition? Kinda like how most people in the US only have one choice of ISP?

    Net Neutrality is GOOD for the consumer. Without it, companies will charge you more for different types of data, even though there is no difference in how that data is delivered. That's exactly what's happening here. If T-Mobile and these other companies are able to "handle the load" for STREAMING MOVIES, then why is there even a "bucket" of data in the first place? Data doesn't run out. It's an artificial scarcity. If we follow net neutrality, then if they can make some data not count, then they can make all data not count. Anything else is pure corporate greed.
    lostkiwibonobobsnovabadmonkiosenthusiast
  • Reply 5 of 10
    broderik said:

    Competition? Kinda like how most people in the US only have one choice of ISP?

    Net Neutrality is GOOD for the consumer. Without it, companies will charge you more for different types of data, even though there is no difference in how that data is delivered. That's exactly what's happening here. If T-Mobile and these other companies are able to "handle the load" for STREAMING MOVIES, then why is there even a "bucket" of data in the first place? Data doesn't run out. It's an artificial scarcity. If we follow net neutrality, then if they can make some data not count, then they can make all data not count. Anything else is pure corporate greed.
    There's a lack of competition BECAUSE of monopoly status that had been given by local governments in the course of laying the first cable systems in the 70s, just as there was a telephony monopoly which only existed thanks to regulations CREATED BY GOVERNMENT.
  • Reply 6 of 10
    Telecom is a HEAVILY regulated industry.  Government owns any deficiencies in the system as much as the companies themselves.  The Telcos love the regulation because it creates a massive barrier to entry for any competition, and as long as they stay on the good side of political wonks from the Dems and Reps, they have a guaranteed plan for success.  It has zero to do with looking out for customers on either side.
    edited December 2015 SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 10
    Interesting.  Good article and the comments show its still a very confusing area.  
  • Reply 8 of 10
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,350member
    Net Neutrality is just doublespeak for "more government intrusion". People who demand free stuff shouldn't be surprised when it turns out there's no such thing as a free lunch and the greater is government's involvement, less freedom of choice is available to the public. Deregulation and competition (not industry + government collaboration) means companies fighting for consumer dollars.
    Yes, because deregulation of the banking industry (and the radio industry for that matter) has worked so well.   End net neutrality and every individual and small company with a website will be forced to pay fees to the ISPs just to keep the site on the net.  Or, they'll be able to keep them up, but they'll be so throttled as to be useless.    Take this site for example, which you obviously spend so much time on.   Net Neutrality ends and AT&T, Verizon, etc. tell AI that if they don't pony up $500K per year, the site will be heavily throttled.    That would make you happy?   Do you really think that ISPs giving priority to sites that pay them is going to provide more freedom of choice?    Not happening.

    Having said that, I don't think an ISP or a content site making a deal with an ISP to offer data that doesn't count towards a data cap is harmful in any way as long as there's no throttling of sites who don't do such a deal.    Would the FCC get involved if phone companies/ISPs lowered prices?    That's essentially what this is even if does cause consumers to favor one content site over another.    IMO, offering some sites that don't count towards a data cap is no different than a cable company offering CSPAN as part of their lowest-priced package.   

    I don't know if there's any stats on this, but what percentage of consumers exceed their data caps anyway?    
    lostkiwilatifbpiosenthusiast
  • Reply 9 of 10
    zoetmb said:
    SpamSandwich said:...
    Yes, because deregulation of the banking industry (and the radio industry for that matter) has worked so well.   End net neutrality and every individual and small company with a website will be forced to pay fees to the ISPs just to keep the site on the net.  Or, they'll be able to keep them up, but they'll be so throttled as to be useless.    Take this site for example, which you obviously spend so much time on.   Net Neutrality ends and AT&T, Verizon, etc. tell AI that if they don't pony up $500K per year, the site will be heavily throttled.    That would make you happy?   Do you really think that ISPs giving priority to sites that pay them is going to provide more freedom of choice?    Not happening.

    Having said that, I don't think an ISP or a content site making a deal with an ISP to offer data that doesn't count towards a data cap is harmful in any way as long as there's no throttling of sites who don't do such a deal.    Would the FCC get involved if phone companies/ISPs lowered prices?    That's essentially what this is even if does cause consumers to favor one content site over another.    IMO, offering some sites that don't count towards a data cap is no different than a cable company offering CSPAN as part of their lowest-priced package.   

    I don't know if there's any stats on this, but what percentage of consumers exceed their data caps anyway?    
    None of your complaints or apparent fears have anything to do with deregulation. What you think is deregulation is simply a lack of competition, especially with regard to the banking comments. No monopoly has ever formed in a system lacking industry regulation, not even these things that have been called "natural monopolies" (they just don't exist).
  • Reply 10 of 10
    broderik said:

    Competition? Kinda like how most people in the US only have one choice of ISP?

    Net Neutrality is GOOD for the consumer. Without it, companies will charge you more for different types of data, even though there is no difference in how that data is delivered. That's exactly what's happening here. If T-Mobile and these other companies are able to "handle the load" for STREAMING MOVIES, then why is there even a "bucket" of data in the first place? Data doesn't run out. It's an artificial scarcity. If we follow net neutrality, then if they can make some data not count, then they can make all data not count. Anything else is pure corporate greed.
    There's a lack of competition BECAUSE of monopoly status that had been given by local governments in the course of laying the first cable systems in the 70s, just as there was a telephony monopoly which only existed thanks to regulations CREATED BY GOVERNMENT.
    Net neutrality is misunderstood and a term thrown about that people don't understand what it is and what it means to the consumer. Net Neutrality is focused on the communications backbones that do the long-haul from end-point to end-point. Tier 1 providers like AT&T and Verizon control the vast majority of the bandwidth along with others like Comcast, Sprint, CenturyLink (one of the "baby bells" from the AT&T breakup), and many others. The Tier 1's charge large bandwidth users like Netflix and other streaming services premium fees for network priority. They also want to charge small website owners a fee to maintain a high level of speed. If not, they can throttle the speed to the little businesses who are trying to start a business via the net. The FCC is trying to prevent that from happening.

    The monopoly status at the local level has nothing to do with the issue in the article since it's a wireless focus. The issues with cable at the local level are numerous. Some municipalities installed and maintained their own cable system, some brokered deals with up and coming cable companies or local television dealers to provide it. Remember, we're talking about the 1970's. It was a big deal to get WGN from Chicago and WTBS from Atlanta. CNN came later along with HBO, etc. No one was thinking about internet access. The first internet access was via telephone line at 110 or 300 bps, not cable. The local monopoly existed for anyone who could afford to string the cable. Ma Bell (AT&T) came into existence as what they called a necessary monopoly which the government agreed to. They created a network that allowed local non-competing networks to connect along with At&T's local systems. Ma Bell was a monopoly not created by the government but basically the government looked the other way. Part of the deal was that AT&T agreed to provide telephone service to rural areas. As the United States continued to grow and modernize it was important to service rural areas.

    Broderik: I don't understand your statement about data doesn't run out. There is only a defined amount of bandwidth at a point in time. It's up to the ISP's to continue to increase it as the demand increases. The cable, fiber, routers, and switches required to add to the backbone add cost to add and maintain them. For wireless there is only a finite number of frequencies available to the carriers. The FCC has been slow to release more for auction. I have been in the downtown area during rush hour and found that making a call is difficult and I go from LTE to 3G to no data connection often.
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