Regulation

FCC Calls Out AT&T On Unfair Practices

AT&T

On Thursday (Nov. 10), the Federal Communications Commission issued a letter to telecom giant AT&T highlighting why the company’s practice of not counting its own streaming video services as data usage for its customers may be unfair.

AT&T's “zero rating” practice ensures that, when customers use its own streaming video service, it will not count against data usage caps, but all other content that’s streamed by the consumer is still counted.

In the letter to the company, Jon Wilkins, the head of the FCC’s wireless division, said the practice “may obstruct competition and harm consumers by constraining their ability to access existing and future mobile video services not affiliated with AT&T.”

However, AT&T said the practice actually promotes competition because any company that wants to offer the same zero-rated capability just has to agree to the same payment terms that have been made available to its DirecTV subsidiary.

“We welcome any video provider that wishes to sponsor its content in the same ‘data-free’ way,” Robert Quinn, AT&T’s head of external and legislative affairs, said in a statement responding to the letter. “We’ll do so on equal terms at our lowest wholesale rates.”

But the FCC stands by its argument that the in-house payments made by DirecTV can’t be compared with AT&T’s rivals paying for the same privilege because they don’t require any net outlays by the parent company, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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