FCC wants a word with AT&T about that zero-rated DirecTV streaming

Not mentioned: Why it wasn't discussed when they approved the $50bn merger

The FCC is taking issue with AT&T over its plans to launch DirecTV as a zero-rated streaming video service.

The US watchdog's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has sent a letter [PDF] to AT&T's senior executive veep of external and legislative affairs asking the telecoms giant to address concerns that by omitting DirecTV from counting towards customer data caps on its mobile plans, AT&T was engaging in anti-competitive behavior.

The letter, signed by Wireless Telecommunications Bureau chief Jon Wilkins, acknowledges that while AT&T is allowed to zero-rate services, omitting its own DirecTV plans for free while charging rival services for the same zero-rate status creates an unfair playing field for third-party video services.

The issue of over-the-top streaming services did arise in July of 2015 when the FCC gave its approval to the $50bn acquisition of DirecTV by AT&T, though mobile service had been curiously overlooked.

In order to get the deal through, the commission imposed a requirement that AT&T refrain from zero-rating its own services, but only on wired connections.

Now, the commission wants to take a closer look at whether AT&T could similarly be harming competition when it applies the zero-rating offer to mobile customers.

"Our concern is not with zero-rating per Se. To the contrary, the Commission acknowledged in the 2015 Open Internet Order that zero-rating-based business models may, in some instances, provide consumer and competitive benefits," the letter reads

"The focus of this letter is the specific impact of AT&T's zero-rating practice on competition, as implemented through the terms and conditions of AT&T's Sponsored Data program."

The letter asks AT&T to explain itself in writing by November 21, or risk further action from the FCC. ®

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