Groups push FCC on 'zero-rating' in letter

Groups push FCC on 'zero-rating' in letter

More than 70 outside groups on Monday pushed the Federal Communications Commission to ban the practice of giving internet users free data when they use certain applications and services.

The 76 groups called on the FCC’s four commissioners and its chairman, Tom Wheeler, “to prohibit abusive data caps and zero rating plans that violate net neutrality,” in a letter. The message was signed by public interest groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Common Cause and Public Knowledge.

ADVERTISEMENT

The push for the FCC to resolve its probe into so-called “zero-rating” comes almost a year after the commission announced it was first sending inquiries to several companies, including T-Mobile and Comcast, about their use of the free data offers.

The practice is seen by some advocates as a violation of net neutrality, or the idea that all content should be treated in the same way, because it guides users to a particular service and disincentivizes them from using a competitor. Wheeler has said only that he is pursuing a “thoughtful” look at the services, which have become increasingly common in recent years.

The request came in a letter that urged the commission to move forward, “without delay,” not just on zero-rating but on items it is pursuing to open up the market for set-top boxes and place stricter privacy rules on broadband providers.

“This Commission has made bold and historic moves to dismantle technological barriers to free and unfettered speech, making tools for generating content more accessible, and networks for sharing and reading more egalitarian,” the groups said. “But there is still much left to do.”

An FCC spokesperson said the agency had received the letter and was reviewing it.