Verizon is taking a page out of AT&T’s book by zero-rating its Fios cable TV service for all Verizon Wireless customers. That means that if you purchase your mobile data plan from Verizon Wireless and your cable TV plan from Fios, you can now use the Fios Mobile app to stream live channels and on-demand shows and not have it count against your monthly data cap. (It should be noted that Verizon Wireless and Fios are separate subsidiaries, but both are owned by Verizon Communications.)
This builds on Verizon’s previous decision to zero-rate its Go90 mobile app for customers of its own wireless service, which net neutrality advocates see as prioritizing its own products to the detriment of those from competitors and upstarts. One notable exception here is for customers with unlimited mobile data plans. Streaming Fios Mobile content will in fact count toward the unlimited plans’ 22GB a month cap, after which Verizon will cap speeds. This caveat is not made clear in Verizon’s marketing language, and instead is found only in the App Store release notes.
In the broader scheme of telecom marketing ploys that may violate net neutrality, AT&T did something similar last year when it announced it would begin zero-rating its new DirecTV Now streaming service for AT&T mobile customers. The notion that companies should not be allowed to prioritize their own service over others is a contentious issue for the Federal Communications Commission, with former chairman Tom Wheeler issuing a report before his tenure ended in January stating that these activities could violate the laws of neutrality. (T-Mobile’s BingeOn and Music Freedom initiatives are considered fair play, because they let any service opt into the program.)
But with new FCC chairman Ajit Pai calling net neutrality a “mistake” and vowing to roll back regulations on telecoms and internet service providers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile may be given even more freedom to do as they please with traffic on their networks. In early February, Pai dropped the official FCC inquiries into data cap exemption policies, saying in a statement, “Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data.”