AT&T is not happy with California’s net neutrality law


Illustration for the article titled AT&T is not happy with California's net neutrality law

Photo: Mark Lennihan (AP)

AT&T just criticized California’s recently enacted net neutrality laws, blaming the state as the reason it can no longer offer certain data features to consumers for free.

“We regret the inconvenience to customers caused by California’s new ‘net neutrality’ law,” AT&T said in a Wednesday blog post.

Last month, United States District Court Judge John Méndez ruled that state net neutrality laws could be officially enforced, which means that wireless service providers like AT&T must treat all Internet traffic the same. California’s law had been in limbo since 2018, because the Trump-era Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state alleging it had no authority to enact its own net neutrality laws. California refrained from enforcing the law and the lawsuit never got anywhere. the The DOJ officially withdrew its lawsuit against California when he took office from Biden.

Under the new law, ISPs and wireless service providers cannot intentionally block websites, limit bandwidth, or charge money for specific content online. ISPs can no longer dictate which sites, content, or applications receive preferential treatment.

This means that AT&T no longer has the ability to offer so-called zero rate schemes, or data limit exemptions for your subscribers. The operator had done just that by granting its internal streaming service, HBO Max, an exemption so that customers streaming from the service would not see data usage count toward their monthly cap. That is about to change.

After AT&T acquired WarnerMedia in 2018, which owns HBO, the company launched its streaming service HBO Max in May 2020. Because AT&T owned the streaming service, it decided that it would not count that data usage for monthly data limits of your customers. AT&T said its “sponsored data” system actually allows any company to pay the operator to exempt it from data limits.

“AT&T Mobility has for years openly invited any entity to become a wireless data sponsor under the same terms and conditions,” the company said in its statement.

It’s easy to say that when you own the streaming service, you don’t count towards your customers’ data limits. But AT&T did not disclose what (or if) other streaming services are accepting that offer. It has been reported in the past that large transmission companies such as Netflix has paid AT&T to reduce buffering times, But currently Netflix streaming counts towards your data limit.

Ultimately, Judge Méndez denied that AT&T and other ISP lobbyists filed an injunction, and now the lobbyists are appealing that decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It seems that ISPs are not done fighting net neutrality yet.

The bad news is if you’re an AT&T subscriber who’s been docking HBO Max, which, uh, sure, well, now all that streaming will eat up your monthly data allowance. But for the sake of the Internet, it is an advantage that had to disappear.

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