Right after Binge On was announced, there were concerns that it might be a violation of net neutrality. Some folks say that it could change how people use video streaming services and reduce a provider’s user base or cause them to miss out on gaining users simply because they’re not included with Binge On. Now FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has weighed in on the matter.
During an FCC meeting today, Wheeler was asked about Binge On and any concerns that it might violate net neutrality. Wheeler responded by saying that with the FCC’s Open Internet Order, the agency said that it’s “pro competition and pro innovation” and that Binge On is “highly innovative and highly competitive.”
Wheeler went on to say that the FCC will examine issues with zero rating — or exempting certain services from counting toward a data cap — on a case-by-case basis. And with Binge On, the FCC Chairman says that “it appears as though this particular offering does not violate the paid prioritization rate line rule” and so the FCC will apply the general conduct rule that says that a carrier shouldn’t be in a position to interfere with an person that’s trying to access a provider and vice versa. “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.”
So it looks like T-Mobile won’t have to worry about the FCC taking action against Binge On, at least for now. I don’t think that John Legere and Co. were particularly worried in the first place, because they’ve been arguing that Binge On isn’t a net neutrality issue since providers don’t have to pay to be a part and that they’ll accept any service that wants to be included. T-Mobile needs to stick to that plan going forward if it wants to stay clear of any FCC action, and they need to ensure that all services can get in quickly if they want. While T-Mobile is busy working to get major providers like YouTube into Binge On, it also needs to provide all of the resources that smaller players need to get into Binge On quickly so that they don’t miss out on users.
If you’d like to watch Wheeler’s response for yourself, you can find the video here. The Binge On portion starts at around the 47:00 mark. I’ve also included his words below if you’re unable to watch the clip.
“I think that it’s clear in the Open Internet Order that we said we are pro competition and pro innovation. Clearly this meets both of those criteria. It’s highly innovative and highly competitive. I also kind of chuckle at the fact that as we were debating the open Internet, everybody was saying, “Oh, this is gonna thwart innovation, it’s going to be terrible. People are going to have to come to the FCC to say ‘Mother, may I?’ before they do anything in the market.” Well that certainly didn’t happen here. As you know, in the Open Internet Order and the debate around it, there was some saying that you should ban the concept of zero rating and others saying that you should permit the concept of zero rating, and we said that we’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis in the general conduct rule.
“It appears as though this particular offering does not violate the paid prioritization bright-line rule, and so we will rely on the general conduct rule. And let’s just review what the general conduct rule says for a second. It says that a carrier should not be in a position to unreasonably interfere with the access between someone who’s trying to get to an edge provider and an edge provider who is trying to get to a consumer. 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.”