Both Comcast and Verizon are now giving their own content a notable market advantage by exempting it from each company’s usage caps. Many people see this as a clear net neutrality violation and an act of anti-competitive behavior, yet the FCC so far has taken a rather glacial tact when deciding whether or not to crack down on the practice. The agency’s net neutrality rules don’t specifically forbid zero rating, but the FCC has said it will use the “general conduct” rule to examine zero rating on a “case by case basis.”
Outside of some letters sent to both companies as part of an “information exercise,” the FCC hasn’t done much on the zero rating front, either because they want to settle the court fight with big ISPs first, or they’re not interested in cracking down on zero rating.
Whichever way the FCC decides to go, in a speech this week (pdf) agency boss Tom Wheeler stated he wouldn’t be rushed.
“There is no definite end date or predetermined outcome for this inquiry, but there are principles,” Wheeler said of the agency’s review of usage caps and zero rating. “Here s one obvious principle that has been a consistent underpinning of FCC precedent for decades: An incumbent should not be able to use its position as a gatekeeper to unfairly discriminate against unaffiliated content or services that may, today or tomorrow, pose a competitive threat to the incumbent s own business.”
That doesn’t sound like an FCC boss that intends to do nothing, though the courts may soon be deciding whether Wheeler and the FCC can act at all.