ATT doesn’t want any rules preventing it from choosing which online video services count against its customers’ data caps.
ATT’s « Sponsored Data » program already charges businesses, often in the ad industry, for the right to deliver services without counting against customers’ mobile data caps. ATT could potentially charge online video streaming services for exemptions from the caps imposed on ATT home broadband subscribers as well or exempt its own online services from caps.
Though ATT doesn’t appear to have done this yet, the company this week asked the FCC to make sure it’s allowed to do so. ATT’s request came after a group of companies and consumer advocacy organizations asked the Federal Communications Commission to prevent ATT from granting data cap exemptions.
« To the extent that ATT uses usage-based tracking, metering, or billing on its Broadband Internet Access Service, it shall not exempt any video service offered over broadband from such tracking, metering, or billing, » said a May 12 filing by Cogent, Dish, Free Press, New America’s Open Technology Institute, and Public Knowledge. The groups proposed that the FCC add that text as a condition on ATT’s proposed acquisition of satellite TV provider DirecTV. Separately, Netflix has argued that ATT could use data caps and usage-based pricing methods to « advantage its own services » and « slow the development » of online video providers that compete against traditional pay-TV.
ATT urged the FCC to reject the proposed condition in a filing on Tuesday. The company pointed out that the FCC’s net neutrality rules don’t specifically bar such data cap exemptions; instead, the FCC reserved the right to review specific practices to determine whether data caps are being used to harm competitors and consumers.
« The record does not support Opponents’ request that ATT be barred from exempting any online video service from any usage-based tracking, metering, or billing in its broadband services, » ATT wrote. « Opponents offer no reason for the Commission to reverse these very recent conclusions and issue a blanket, abstract prohibition that would apply only to ATT. Doing so would deprive ATT customers of service offerings tailored to fit their usage and their budget. It would also distort competition by hindering ATT’s efforts to close the gap and compete with cable’s higher-speed broadband products. »
ATT wrote that its broadband data limits are high enough to « accommodate the great majority of customers. » Broadband providers with caps « that significantly impinge on the ability of customers to enjoy OVD [online video distribution] products will not be able to attract new customers or even to retain existing ones, » ATT wrote.
ATT’s caps are 150GB per month for DSL subscribers, 250GB per month for U-verse, 500GB or 1TB for GigaPower, with overage fees of $10 per additional 50GB.
The data caps and overage charges encourage « more efficient use of the network and ensures that lighter users of broadband services are not forced to subsidize the very heaviest users, » ATT wrote.
ATT did not reveal any specific plans to exempt video services from caps, but noted that it is striking deals with certain online video providers to make it easier for customers to access the services. « The record contains evidence of agreements between ATT and OVD providers that make it easier for ATT broadband customers to use OVD services, and ATT’s recently announced deal with Hulu is further evidence of that continued commitment, » ATT wrote. « To that end, ATT will continue to have a strong incentive to implement any usage-based data policies in a way that accommodates its customers’ usage of OVD services. »
ATT announced its deal with Hulu earlier this month, saying an integrated offering will be available to customers later this year. ATT did not say whether Hulu will be exempt from ATT data caps. We asked ATT today whether Hulu or any other video services will be exempt from ATT data caps but have not heard back yet.
ATT also offers its own online streaming video service to U-verse customers, but notes on the product page that « data charges may apply. » Using this service does count against ATT’s caps, both on mobile and home broadband.
While ATT’s Sponsored Data program for mobile requires payment to be exempt from data caps, T-Mobile US has been exempting a variety of streaming music services from its LTE data limits without requiring payment.
ATT’s latest filing also urges the FCC to reject Netflix’s proposal to prevent ATT from charging online content providers for network interconnection.