FCC Chairman Pai Ends Obama-era Investigation of ‘Zero-rating’ Data Plans


Last Friday, newly promoted Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai took the first step in pushing back against Obama-era net neutrality rules by closing an investigation into the “zero-rating” practices of wireless providers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Zero-rating is when Internet providers exempt certain streaming services and downloads from counting against a customer’s total data charges. Examples include AT&T’s access to DirecTV Now, T-Mobile’s Binge On, and Verizon’s NFL streaming. Previous CEI blog posts have explained the myriad consumer benefits of these services and some of the opposition they’ve faced inside the Beltway and abroad. My CEI colleague Wayne Crews has also highlighted the absurdity of the FCC’s previous position on net neutrality.

Mr. Pai’s official FCC statement is short (and sweet) enough to reproduce here:

Today, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau is closing its investigation into wireless carriers’ free-data offerings. These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace. Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.

Net neutrality regulations are a (harmful) cure in search of a disease. Zero-rating practices are a great example. Let’s hope this is the first of many FCC decisions that encourage innovation and allow market forces to benefit consumers.