AT&T is living right down to the expectations of alarmists who worried about the merger between Time Warner and AT&T as well as advocates for Net Neutrality. While rolling out the HBO Max streaming service the company has announced that it will not count data used by the service against the data caps that it uses to jerk its customers around and squeeze more money from them at the end of the month.
The service had already been playing hardball with streaming distributors like Sling TV by pulling support for HBO away from the service over a year ago in a dispute that has never been resolved. The decision on data caps has drawn the attention of some democratic senators.
In a letter to outgoing AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that “According to recent reporting and comments from AT&T executives, your company has a policy of favoring a specific streaming service in a manner that appears to runs contrary to your stated support for a free and open internet,” the senators wrote. “The Trump FCC may have gutted critical net neutrality protections, but AT&T nonetheless has a responsibility to avoid any policies or practices that harm consumers and stifle competition.
The senators went on to point out that the company is essentially paying itself for the benefit of the lack of throttling in order to increase viewership over its competition. Under since rescinded Net Neutrality regulations the practice of Zero Rating, which is what AT&T is putting into effect, was not allowed, but the current FCC Chief Ajit Pai considers zero ratings plans pro consumer.
Well I guess they are pro consumer if consumers universally wanted HBO Max. But the truth is that changed by ISP’s during the pandemic have exposed the total sham of data caps once and for all. The very existence of them going forward in any respect is a direct affront to the consumer and an obvious anti trust issue that should be addressed if there is a change at the top of the federal government in the form of laws written and passed and signed by the president. The Internet has proven more and more over time that it is a utility and not a premium privilage. And between students using the Internet for distance learning, businesses using it for remote work, medical practitioners using it for video consultations and a huge increase for streaming of entertainment it appears as though the networks can handle unlimited Internet use just fine thank you.
But as long as ISP’s and wireless providers can own TV stations and streaming services and operate in an essentially unregulated environment the “pro consumer” policies of the FCC will continue to screw Americans out of a service that other people in other countries get faster and for free.