Verizon ‘FreeBee’ Sponsored Data Program Raises Net Neutrality Flags

AT&T raised a few eyebrows when it launched its Sponsored Data program two years ago. Sponsored Data allows companies to deliver content (free of charge to you) without cutting into your mobile data allowance. AT&T was spooked by net neutrality concerns over Sponsored Data and has pretty much kept a low-profile since it was initially announced.

The nation’s wireless carrier, Verizon, however, has no such concerns about net neutrality and is going forward with its own nearly identical “zero-rating” program. Verizon’s program is called FreeBee Data and is available in two different variants. FreeBee Data 360 allows content providers to eat up the cost of all mobile content delivered to a consumer, be it through a mobile website or via streaming video. The content provider is then billed on a per-gigabyte basis for the data consumed.

There is a separate FreeBee Data program (without the 360) in which consumers can take advantage of free data on a per-click basis. In practice, both FreeBee Data and FreeBee Data 360 will provide the same experience for the consumer, with the only real difference being in how the content providers pays Verizon for the privilege.


So how does FreeBee Data work? Say for example that a movie studio wants you to check out the trailer for its latest blockbuster movie; it could allow you to watch the trailer without worrying about taking a chunk out of your meager 2GB/month data plan. The possibilities are endless, with Verizon stating that FreeBee Data can be used for zero-rate videos (up to 30 seconds), podcasts, music streaming, audiobooks (up to 30 minutes for audio-only), mobile websites, and even app downloads.

“With 1 in 3 Americans now watching videos on their smartphone, and another 100 million on tablets, the business case for mobile is clear,” said Colson Hillier, Verizon VP of Consumer Products. “In today’s digital economy, FreeBee Data is a departure from the one size fits all approach to marketing. The opportunity to add value and utility to consumers’ everyday experiences will fundamentally transform how brands and businesses connect with their customers.”

Verizon has currently signed up AOL (a property that it now owns), GAMEDAY and Hearst Magazines. FreeBee Data 360 is currently in beta as of today, while the pay-per-click FreeBee Data will be commercially available later this year.