Technology

FCC says it will keep an eye on T-Mobile program

 

The head of the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday that T-Mobile’s new plan to exempt video from its wireless data caps promotes innovation and competition, a signal that some interpreted as a blessing under net neutrality rules.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, however, did not wholly clear the new product, called Binge On, from the Internet regulations passed earlier this year. He instead said T-Mobile’s plan will be judged by a broader standards.

{mosads}”And so what we’re going to be doing is watching the Binge On product, keeping an eye on it, and to measure it against the general conduct rule,” Wheeler told reporters.

Asked again, Wheeler said, “We keep an eye on everything.”

“This is a general conduct rule issue,” he said.

Wheeler said specifically that T-Mobile’s plan did not violate the paid prioritization portion of the net neutrality rules, which bar Internet service providers from creating fast lanes for websites willing to pay.

After Wheeler’s comments, an FCC spokeswoman said staffers at the commission are working through T-Mobile’s offering to make sure they understand it. 

Under T-Mobile’s new policy, traffic from 24 streaming video services will be exempt from the caps associated with most wireless plans. Any service that wants to participate can do so as long as it meets certain technical specifications.

Outside advocates have described such plans as a violation of the spirit of net neutrality. The FCC did not come down either way in its net neutrality rules, vowing to judge new products on a case-by-case basis.

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, an opponent of the net neutrality rules, said he interpreted Wheeler’s remarks as a blessing for the new T-Mobile program. He predicted companies would begin offering similar plans after Wheeler’s comments.

Similarly, Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, another net neutrality opponent, said the state of the law is unsettled and should not provide any comfort to businesses.

“I don’t know,” Pai said about whether Binge On complies with the rules. “Nobody knows. That is the entire point.”

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