The recent battle of Net Neutrality was supposedly decided by the FCC in favor of free and unfettered access to all kinds of data across any network with a legal prohibition against any provider slowing one kind of content or speeding up another kind of content to suit its own interests. The concept of net neutrality is credited with allowing the robust and incredibly powerful Internet we all utilize to form and continue growing decades after its inception. Now the data providers are seeking to find new ways to profit from tactics that seem to skirt the exact same principles that were just given force of law by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The new scheme is based on the idea of utilizing data cap pricing rather than bitrate speed to create an unleveled playing field for content distribution. Verizon is now offering its subscribers “free uncapped data” on all Verizon Mobile Video, but counting data usage from external sources like Netflix against the data caps of Verizon customer mobile billing plans.
Meanwhile, the FCC is already looking into data cap exemptions (referred to within the industry as zero-rating) that have been implemented by other data providers including Comcast / Xfinity, AT&T / Time Warner, and T-Mobile USA.
The FCC has issued an official letter to the companies stating in part “”We want to ensure that we have all the facts to understand how this service relates to the Commission’s goal of maintaining a free and open Internet while incentivizing innovation and investment from all sources” – which seems like an awfully nice way of asking ‘Hey guys, didn’t we just finish telling you that you can’t do stuff like this?’
For years the fight over net neutrality raged on as well-funded lobbyists and lawyers from the data providers battled the popular notion of what the Internet was supposed to be and the way access was intended to be managed by companies that in many cases have de facto monopolies over customers in one region or another. That fight was fought and won by a vigorous political movement spearheaded by technologists and academics who understood the nature of the Internet and the importance of neutral access to content across the entire web.
It looks like providers are unwilling to take no for an answer, and a new battle is looming, one in which consumers are asked to turn down “free” uncapped data from monopolistic sources to preserve the unbiased nature of information dissemination online for generations to come.