AT&T Is Offering Free DirecTV, Obama’s FCC Says It Violates Net Neutrality

Eric Lieberman | Associate Editor

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently sent AT&T a letter arguing that the tech company cannot offer free data through the “DirecTV Now” service because it is a violation of net neutrality.

“As we explain (again) in the response provided to the Wireless Bureau [of the FCC] today, the video entertainment marketplace is ripe for disruptive change, which is exactly why consumers have enthusiastically embraced Data Free TV in all its competitive forms,” AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory Joan Marsh, said in an official statement Thursday. “That enthusiasm has caused competitors to react with additional consumer-friendly video offerings, like the T-Mobile offer announced today.”

The Obama administration believes that net neutrality, the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally, will give smaller Internet Service Providers (ISP) the “same chance to succeed as established corporations.”

AT&T disapproves of net neutrality and is certainly not alone. It’s competitors, like Verizon, IBM and Intel, believe that treating all data on the internet the same by essentially making it a public utility will limit competition and decrease incentives to innovate.

The government worries that more powerful ISPs, like AT&T, will be able to exact charges for data received from video streaming companies like Netflix and Hulu, but offer its own content for free. The FCC fears that by creating a gap in costs, less established companies will not be able to prosper. (RELATED: Net Neutrality Policy Analysts Caught Red-Handed On Big Tech’s Payroll)

On the other hand, opponents of net neutrality say it is bad for consumers, because it limits service providers from offering different features and lower costs.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson heavily criticized the FCC at a conference earlier this month, after the company received a separate, but similar letter than the most recent one.

“We got a really aggressive letter from the Federal Communications Commission about zero-rating — that’s regulating pricing,” Stephenson said at a conference, according to The New York Post, adding that the rules are “a bad idea and bad for the industry.”

An AT&T spokesperson sent both pieces of correspondence to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“AT&T seems to be ‘acting in ways that may harm the open Internet, such as preferring [its] own or affiliated content [and] demanding fees from edge providers,'” Jon Wilkins, Chief of the Wireless Telecommunication Bureau of the FCC, said in the first letter, which was addressed to AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Robert Quinn, Jr.

“We therefore request that AT&T address the concerns expressed in this letter, including providing additional information or clarification if you believe that we have misunderstood relevant aspects of AT&T’s current and announced offerings.”

Several media outlets are calling the recent departure of one FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, the end of net neutrality.

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