We’ve discussed more than a few times the awful precedent set by AT&T’s Sponsored Data effort, which involves companies paying AT&T to have their service be exempt from the company’s already arbitrary usage caps. While AT&T pitches this as a wonderful boon to consumers akin to 1-800 numbers and free shipping, as VC Fred Wilson perfectly illustrated last year, it tilts the entire wireless playing field toward companies with deeper pockets that can afford to pay AT&T’s rates for cap exemption.
So how will the FCC’s new net neutrality rules impact AT&T’s plans? There’s every indication it won’t. The rules are still a few years and a few legal challenges away from becoming tangible, and in the interim, the FCC is telling companies that none of the zero rated efforts currently in play should be impacted. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Norway, Chile and now Canada all realize the threat posed by zero rated apps and have passed net neutrality rules that outlaw zero rating. The FCC, in contrast, has consistently implied it sees zero rating as “creative” pricing.
That’s given AT&T the justifiable confidence to sally forth with its dangerous precedent. After all, injecting a gatekeeper like AT&T (with a generation of documented anti-competitive abuses under its belt) right into the middle of the wireless app ecosystem won’t hurt anyone, and has nothing whatsoever to do with net neutrality.