What is Zero Rating?

internet open zero rating sign

Zero rating has become the center of the net neutrality debate. Toll free data or sponsored data is the practice of mobile network operators (MNO), mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), and Internet service providers (ISP) who do not to charge customers for data used by specific applications or internet services through their network or is limited or metered.

Zero rating plans exempt particular data from counting against a user's data cap, or from accruing any excess usage charges.  A zero rating may provide an unfair advantage to the provider of the content that is zero rated, compared to other content providers or potential new entrants. 

India recently decided to reject zero rating plans such as Facebook's Free Basics, while in the United States carriers push boundaries with zero rating experiments such as T-Mobile's Binge-On plan, as well as AT&T's Sponsored Data, Verizon's FreeBee, and Comcast's Stream TV.  Read more. 

The nation’s two largest wireless carriers have told the FCC to ease up on its probe of zero-rated mobile data policies. But the issue may soon be moot anyway under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. The commission recently sent letters to both Verizon and AT&T warning that their policies for zero-rated content could harm competition and consumers. The model enables users to consume specific types of video and other content on mobile devices without incurring wireless data charges.  AT&T zero-rates content from its recently launched DirecTV Now for its wireless customers; Verizon does the same with its Go90 offering.  Read more.

Critics claim zero-rated data policies violate net neutrality principles because they give some content providers an advantage over others. The issue has become increasingly contentious as wireless carriers expand into media, enabling them to offer their own content to customers at no cost.

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