Last week, Dutch regulators ordered T-Mobile to stop its Data-free Music service because the "zero rating" offering violates net neutrality rules in The Netherlands. The service is similar to T-Mobile's Binge On plan offered in the US where the legality of zero-rating services has yet to be challenged.
"Free data does not exist: other services will be more expensive," said Henk Don in a statement by the Dutch regulatory authority.
“Free data does not exist”
As a reminder, zero-rating is the contested practice whereby network providers don’t charge customers for data used by specific applications or internet services through their network.
Dutch net neutrality became law in 2012 and forbids zero-rating services on the grounds that they may harm competition, especially for data-heavy services like streaming audio and video. T-Mobile introduced its Data-free Music service to the Netherlands in October of this year after Europe passed a weaker net neutrality law in April. The new European law allows for some services under some conditions to be provide for free or more cheaply. T-Mobile now faces a fine of €50,000 each day (up to €500,000 maximum) it continues to offer the service.
The issue will now head to court where a judge will decide if the tougher Dutch law infringes upon the weaker European regulation. T-Mobile says it complies with EU net neutrality regulations and will therefore continue to offer its Data-free Music service until a verdict is reached.
The ensuing legal battle in Europe will be of great interest to carriers in the US who have come under fire recently for their own zero-rated services. AT&T and Verizon were both called out by the FCC for their sponsored data plans that ultimately "harm consumers" by creating an uneven playing field for businesses. Of course, none of this will matter if President-elect Trump comes in and guts US net neutrality rules as many fear.