UK telecom provider Three is taking a cue from T-Mobile and launching a new data plan called “Go Binge,” which sounds awfully similar to T-Mobile’s “Binge On” program. Through Go Binge, Three subscribers can use Netflix, SoundCloud, Deezer, and TVPlayer without having it count toward their data plan. Existing customers will have to upgrade their plan to qualify while new customers on higher-priced plans — with 4GB and above data allowance — will be automatically opted in.
Three appears to be toeing the line of net neutrality rules, just as T-Mobile did in the US. Neither the EU nor US rules specifically outlaw zero-rating. In the EU, guidelines enforced by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) allow zero-rating schemes to be assessed on a case-by-case basis based on their potential damage to competitiveness in the market.
A spokesperson from Three responded to The Verge about whether the new policy violates EU net neutrality and its competitiveness guideline:
“No, we are compliant with regulation. Neither the EU net neutrality regulations nor the Berec guidelines prohibit the zero rating of services. Go Binge does not block content and it does not prioritise or restrict traffic. We are promoting customer choice: customers can opt out of the service if they choose to do so. We are not compelling consumers to participate and we are not charging them anything if they do so. This is an innovative product which adds to a number of zero-rated agreements in place across the industry.”
Virgin Mobile launched a similar program last year in which it zero-rates Facebook apps, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Another smaller company, FreedomPop, also exempts WhatsApp data. Neither company was forced to stop their zero-rating schemes, so Three will likely be allowed to proceed as well. The company claims to handle 35 percent of all the UK’s mobile data, and, according to data from 2015, it counts 10 percent of the population as subscribers.
Zero-rating has certainly arrived in the UK, and while the partnered services seem to be limited across the board, it seems likely they’ll only continue to expand with T-Mobile and its hundred or so partners as the blueprint.