AT&T might be violating net neutrality rules by giving customers the option to stream DirecTV content without counting against their mobile data cap. The FCC issued a letter to the company this week, outlining its concerns.
At the heart of the issue is that AT&T owns DirecTV; however, it charges other companies for the privilege of offering their content on the network at no charge to consumers, a program it calls “Sponsored Data.” Since AT&T owns DirecTV it’s able to make its content free at effectively zero cost.
“The position that the participation of DirecTV in Sponsored Data is the same as that of third parties, however, fails to take account of the notably different financial impact on unaffiliated providers,” FCC chief Jon Wilkins said in a letter sent to AT&T on November 9th. “For example, while there is no cash cost on a consolidated basis for AT&T to zero-rate its own affiliate’s mobile video service (since DirecTV’s ‘cost’ of Sponsored Data is equal to AT&T Mobility’s Sponsored Data ‘revenue’), an unaffiliated provider’s Sponsored Data payment to AT&T Mobility is a true cash cost.”
AT&T started offering cap-free streaming of DirecTV in September.