Verizon extends zero-rated mobile video to Fios users

Verizon is expanding its zero-rated data model for wireless customers who also subscribe to its internet and TV services.

The nation’s largest wireless operator said those subscribers can watch both live and recorded shows without incurring data charges by using Verizon’s Fios Mobile App. The offering includes on-the-go viewing of more than 140 live channels, recorded DVR shows and thousands of on-demand titles.

“Data-free streaming on Fios Mobile makes Verizon’s 5 GB, S, M, and L Verizon Plans a better value than ever,” the company said in its announcement Thursday. “To take advantage of getting your Fios content data-free on your mobile phone, download the most recent version of the Fios Mobile app from the app store.”

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Zero-rated data has become a key strategy for all four major U.S. carriers over the last year. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to try to leverage zero-rated data in a significant way, first with its Music Freedom offering in 2014 and then a year later with Binge On for video, which has seen significant success. While Binge On has also drawn criticism over net neutrality concerns, T-Mobile’s policy of accepting content from any provider who meets certain technical criteria helps alleviate those issues.

But the model attracted more attention from legislators last year as Verizon and AT&T embraced it when they simultaneously moved more aggressively into digital media.

The model has come under fire from critics who claim it violates net neutrality principles because it enables carriers to favor some content providers over others, and – in the cases of Verizon and T-Mobile – allows them to push their own content to users. Indeed, the FCC has questioned both of those carriers over their policies for zero-rated data offerings on net neutrality grounds.

The FCC has reversed itself under Ajit Pai, however, who succeeded Tom Wheeler as chairman in January as Donald Trump took office. That reversal paves the way for carriers to continue to deploy zero-rated data services as the worlds of wireless and digital media converge.

“These free-data plans have proven to be popular among consumers, particularly low-income Americans, and have enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace,” Pai said last month in a prepared statement. “Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data. Instead, we will concentrate on expanding broadband deployment and encouraging innovative service offerings.”

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