AT&T And Verizon Bark Back At FCC Over Net Neutrality And Zero-Rating Services

AT&T and Verizon have struck the latest blow in the battle between themselves and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC had given the telecommunication corporations until December 15th to respond to its concerns over net neutrality and zero-rating services. AT&T and Verizon have spat out their vituperative responses.

First off, what is “zero-rating”? Zero-rating is when mobile network operators (MNOs) and ISPs do not charge customers for data used by specific applications or internet services through their network, in limited or metered data plans. According to the FCC, AT&T's Sponsored Data program “denies unaffiliated third parties the same ability to compete over AT&T's network on reasonable terms.” Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360 service makes it so that “Unaffiliated edge providers not purchasing FreeBee Data 360 would likewise face a significant competitive disadvantage in trying to serve Verizon's customer base without zero-rating.”

att store

AT&T argues that its Sponsored Data Program follows other Congressional and FCC precedents. It also argued that if its program ended it would, “weaken DirecTV Now’s potential to disrupt the cable-dominated pay-TV marketplace. Consumers are more likely to perceive DirecTV Now as a cable substitute if, as with cable, they can consume as much of it as they like without worrying about overages.” To top it all off, AT&T claims that the FCC has no authority since President Elect Donald Trump will change the FCC leadership and mission once he takes office.

Verizon also argued that its service is following a precedent. The company noted, “well-established telecommunication and competition laws consistently recognize the legitimacy of arrangements where providers charge their affiliates the same price for the same services they provide to competitors”. Verizon insisted as well that its service has in no way harmed consumers or competition.


AT&T and Verizon’s responses come on the heels of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s announcement that he would resign in the new year. He has left before he can be replaced by President Elect Donald Trump, who has traditionally spoken against net neutrality. In the interim, Republican FCC commissioner Ajit Pai is expected to be named interim chairman.