TR Daily Senators Seek Explanation of AT&T’s Sponsored Data Program
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Senators Seek Explanation of AT&T’s Sponsored Data Program

Sens. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) wrote to AT&T, Inc., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson today regarding reports that AT&T does not count use of its HBO Max streaming service against customers’ data caps, a practice the senators said appears to violate the “essential” net neutrality principle that “service providers may not favor content in which they have a financial interest over competitors’ content.”

In a statement, AT&T said, “Our wireless subscribers can stream HBO Max video without incurring data charges, which will save money for millions of consumers. This is based on a Sponsored Data arrangement and is a program we offer on the same terms to any entities who wish to sponsor data for their customers. This is similar to arrangements some of our competitors have.”

However, in the letter, the senators said, “Although HBO Max may technically be paying for this benefit, AT&T is essentially paying itself. This practice of allowing one arm of your company to ‘pay’ another arm of your company for preferential treatment attempts to mask its true impact.”

They added, “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 asked for “an explanation for the behavior described” by June 25. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress InternetIoT NetNeutrality

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