Newly appointed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai is giving his blessing to zero-rating programs from mobile carriers that the agency previously determined violate net neutrality rules.
In a statement issued last week, Pai indicated that the FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into “free-data plans” including AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360. The agency said in December that those two plans in particular violate its open Internet rules by playing favorites in granting customers unlimited data at no extra cost when accessing select content, sites and platforms.
Pai said the plans “have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace.”
“Going forward,” he continued, “the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”
While Pai’s predecessor Tom Wheeler had given his OK to T-Mobile’s Binge On plan, the FCC continued to consider zero-rating programs on a case-by-case basis.
In taking last week’s action, the Trump appointee may be taking the first steps toward dismantling net neutrality and other reforms that were sought by the Obama administration and instituted under Wheeler.