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The FCC is changing how data charges work, opening a dangerous door

(BUSINESS NEWS) The FCC makes a move to “not focus on denying Americans free data.” Sounds great, but what does it really mean for consumers?

work-life balance data fcc

First week actions

As the freshly Trump-appointed Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai has made his anti-net neutrality position clear.

Pai issued about a dozen actions in his first week as Chairman, mimicking the frantic pace and tactics of the Trump administration. Pai’s actions lifted many Obama-era consumer protection regulations. Among other things, he ditched a proposal aimed at opening up the cable box market, prevented companies from providing high-speed internet service to low-income people (in an effort to eliminate fraudulent programs), and eliminated an attempt to lower the astronomical prison phone rates.

Zero-rating and other measures

Pai took particular aim at regulations designed to preserve net neutrality. Net neutrality refers to the idea that anyone with control over internet speeds and prices (internet services providers like Verizon and AT&T, as well as governments regulating the internet) should view all internet data as equal. That means no discrimination based on user, content, platform, etc.

One prominent challenge to net neutrality (beyond Pai himself) lies in the practice of “zero-rating.” Under this method, ISPs can choose not to charge customers for data used by select apps or internet services.

To many consumers, this looks like free data.

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But to advocates of an open internet, a pro-competition, pro-free speech internet, this looks like bad news.

With a zero-rating system, big ISPs can prioritize apps and content providers that will pay out of pocket for the effective discount consumers receive, rendering small businesses and nonprofits that can’t or won’t pay that premium less attractive to consumers with low data caps.

Closing investigations

And on Friday, Pai closed an ongoing investigation into the zero-rating systems of T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, opening the door to more and more explicit conflicts of interest and data discrimination.

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Going forward, the FCC will not focus on denying Americans free data,’ said Pai on Friday.” quote=”‘Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data,’ said Pai in a statement Friday.”]

Later that day, the Internet Association President and CEO Michael Beckerman spoke out on the FCC’s (lack of) zero-rating enforcement.

Beckerman cited the importance of “protecting consumers and competition,” and warned against “improperly” executed zero-rating practices, which can “be harmful to consumers and stifle competition online.” He went on to admonish “artificially low data caps” that “create false scarcity, which instills an appearance of value in a zero-rating program while harming consumers.”

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Written By

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

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  1. Pingback: Trump's AT&T merger position at odds with FCC dismantling of net neutrality - The American Genius

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