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Zero Rating by AT&T

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Getting the Most from Your Data Allotment

AT&T says it wants to “go hard” with its broadband ‘zero rating’ policy. The practice is controversial. ‘Zero rating’ is an internet industry term for refusing to count data from certain sources against customer data limits. In this case, AT&T zero rates DirecTV Now video streams on its broadband network. Suppose your monthly AT&T data cap is 1oo gigabytes. You use 5 gigabytes for a DirecTV Now HD movie stream. In calculating how much data you have left for the month, AT&T doesn’t count those 5 gigabytes.

Randall Stephenson, the company’s CEO, explained the policy in a call to investors. “Our customers are loving this value proposition”, he said. “We have more than 200,000 DirecTV Now customers on it, the service is not counting against their data caps, and that’s a big deal.”

What is DirecTV Now?

AT&T bought DirecTV last year.

DirecTV Now is a dedicated internet video streaming service. Unlike the legacy DirecTV platform, it doesn’t require a satellite dish or a set-top box. Unlike AT&T’s U-Verse TV service, it doesn’t require extending cable or fiber-optic lines to the customer’s house. It doesn’t require long-term contracts. It’s compatible with almost every known streaming device: Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Playstation Vue, iOS and Android tablets and phones, and Mac and PC computers. Access to DirecTV Now is as simple as entering a four-digit customer code.

AT&T launched DirecTV Now on November 30, 2016. In just one month, it picked up more than 200,000 subscribers- an astonishingly strong debut for a new video service.

The Argument over Zero Rating

Some consumer groups criticize zero rating. They say such practices violate FCC ‘net neutrality’ rules. Under these regulations, internet service providers may not block or throttle content from rival networks, nor accept payment for favorable treatment of other data. Critics argue that ‘net neutrality’ prohibits AT&T’s zero rating of DirecTV Now.

Customers who bundle DirecTV Now with AT&T internet service love the policy, since it frees more of their data for other uses.

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