Net neutrality supporters claim Verizon ‘exploiting’ regulations with streaming app

© Jonathan Alcorn
Verizon now allows customers with its Go90 app to stream select programming without it counting towards their limited data usage plans. Critics say the video service goes against the net neutrality principle of treating all online content equally.

The net neutrality rules adopted last year by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibit internet providers from blocking and throttling access to legal and safe apps, devices, and content. The rules also ban paid prioritization, the act of promoting some internet traffic over others.

Verizon is the latest, after T-Mobile, to offer what’s called zero-rating programs to users, a tactic supporters of net neutrality claim is a way to sidestep the regulations. Zero-rating is when content providers pay an internet provider, like AT&T or the other mentioned companies, to gain access to their customer base. For instance, Comedy Central paying to put The Daily Show on Verizon Go90 or T-Mobile’s Binge On program.

"Go90 has decided to take advantage of Verizon's FreeBee Data 360 service, which allows them to pay for customer's data usage associated with watching videos on the Go90 app. FreeBee Data 360 is an open, non-exclusive service available to other content providers on a non-discriminatory basis," a Verizon spokesperson told the tech website Re/code.

The problem critics see is that watching shows like The Daily Show on anything other than Go90, for Verizon customers, costs the user more of their 4G LTE data cap, therefore providing the incentive to only use the app with Verizon-prioritized content.

Timothy Seppala, associate editor for Engadget, wrote, “the inherent problem with this is that, again, Verizon is giving preferential treatment to its own content and it creates an uneven playing field.”

Companies like Verizon say they’re simply giving their customers what they want, but to T.C. Sottek, managing editor for The Verge, “their arguments are based on a market of artificial scarcity they have created, and now intend to exploit,” by setting various data cap levels to “reap juicy tolls from people who provide services that require a lot of data.”

The FCC addressed the zero-rating programs with major providers on Thursday and is awaiting a ruling on net neutrality rules from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals expected next month, InsideSources reported.