Federal regulators are questioning three major Internet providers about programs that exempt certain services from monthly data caps.
Digital-rights advocates have argued that the policies of Comcast, AT&T, and T-Mobile might violate the Federal Communications Commission’s net-neutrality regulations, which require Internet providers to treat all traffic equally.
While the policies mean customers can watch more videos without triggering pricey overage fees, net-neutrality advocates warn they could tilt the Internet in favor of the biggest companies. Small start-up services might have a harder time qualifying for favorable treatment from Internet providers, the advocates argue.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler emphasized that the commission is not conducting a formal investigation of the practices. Instead, he said, he is asking the companies to “come in and have a discussion with us about some of the innovative things that they are doing.”
T-Mobile’s Binge On program, which it announced last month, allows customers on certain qualifying data plans to stream Netflix, Hulu, HBO, ESPN, and other video services without counting it towards their monthly data usage. Any video service that complies with certain technical requirements can participate in the program, T-Mobile says.