AT&T will no longer allow unlimited TV streaming now that California law bans 'zero-rating'

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,962   +785
Staff member
In a nutshell: California's net neutrality law is coming back to bite consumers in the backside, at least according to AT&T. The provider has previously allowed customers to stream content from HBO Max without it counting toward their data caps (zero-rating). However, California's new law bans streaming services from "sponsoring" subscribers' data usage.

AT&T announced on Wednesday that it would no longer be able to allow customers unlimited streaming from any internet TV services because California law now forbids allowing companies to pay to zero-rate its subscribers. This change will prominently affect HBO Max (an AT&T-owned VoD service) subscribers, who have been able to use the service without it affecting their data usage.

"Prior to California's law, sponsored data customers were able to browse, stream and enjoy applications from sponsors without using their monthly data allowance," the company said. "Unfortunately, under the California law, we are now prohibited from providing certain data features to consumers free of charge."

The provider says that these changes do not only affect California customers because "the internet does not recognize state borders." This concern was foreshadowed in the US Department of Justice's challenging of the Califonia legislation in 2018. The DoJ viewed the law as an attempt to undermine the FCC's rollback of internet access regulations. It argued that the FCC has the sole authority to create rules governing internet access since a large portion of interstate commerce occurs over the internet.

"States do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does," said former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy."

The idea of Califonia's law and the premise that it lobbied on was attractive on its surface. It was an attempt to level the playing field so that big companies could not get an unfair advantage over smaller companies offing similar services by paying for faster speeds or unlimited data usage for its customers. However, as can be seen, this is now going to affect those who previously enjoyed using those services without incurring the extra usage involved.

AT&T concludes, saying it supports regulation on the federal level, but that a "patchwork" of rules made up state-by-state is "unworkable." In other words, when a state puts restrictions on or bans a service, the easiest and most cost-effective way to comply is not to offer it anymore, regardless of where the customer lives.

Image credit: AT&T Store by NYCStock, HBO Max by Tada Images

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Dimitriid

Posts: 527   +876
Wouldn't be an issue if there weren't arbitrary "caps" set on data usage, now would it?

Also, AT&T wouldn't need to play around with data caps that used to favor their services if they instead invested in some more infrastructure to actually deliver the bandwidth they advertise vs promising they'll deliver it, oversell it without upgrading infrastructure, then raising the price and imposing data caps to keep things together.

ISPs are a modern day, legalized mob racket.
 

brucek

Posts: 802   +1,104
TechSpot Elite
I really hope at least some journalists will be calling AT&T out on not simultaneously increasing the data caps. After all, if before their network could offer a cap of X + unlimited HBO Max on top of that, surely that same network can now offer X + a substantial Y?

California is right on this, and as long as there is true competition in the wireless space, AT&T will not be able to compete for long with a service whose low data caps does not allow consumers to do what they want to do.
 

psycros

Posts: 3,444   +3,993
"States do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does," said former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "Once again the California legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy."

And once again nothing will be done. We waited THREE YEARS to see some punitive action regarding "sanctuary cities".
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 527   +876
Seeing some of the reactions I think the issue many have here is that this half-way measure basically only made things worst.

The answer however, should be much more deceptively simple: ISPs should not be allowed to impose data caps or bandwidth throttling, full stop.

That's it: AT&T promises you 100mbps down 5mbps up you should be able to get those speeds, at all times or reasonable enough (For consumers, 90% of the time at those speeds) Otherwise they might just offer a lower plan and according to other regulations, cannot call it "Broadband" if they don't offer 100/5 (As an example, whatever the minimums might be)

Basically just force ISPs to actually deliver what any reasonable person should expect for the agreed upon price: deliver BANDWIDTH to your home, not data allowances. If you can't either invest in more infrastructure, adjust your prices or quite honestly, GTFO and let someone else provide service on the geographical areas you monopolize.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,962   +785
Staff member
Seeing some of the reactions I think the issue many have here is that this half-way measure basically only made things worst.

The answer however, should be much more deceptively simple: ISPs should not be allowed to impose data caps or bandwidth throttling, full stop.

That's it: AT&T promises you 100mbps down 5mbps up you should be able to get those speeds, at all times or reasonable enough (For consumers, 90% of the time at those speeds) Otherwise they might just offer a lower plan and according to other regulations, cannot call it "Broadband" if they don't offer 100/5 (As an example, whatever the minimums might be)

Basically just force ISPs to actually deliver what any reasonable person should expect for the agreed upon price: deliver BANDWIDTH to your home, not data allowances. If you can't either invest in more infrastructure, adjust your prices or quite honestly, GTFO and let someone else provide service on the geographical areas you monopolize.
You bring up the one gripe I have always had about ISPs in general. Most say "UP TO X Mbps" to get around the false advertising that they can actually deliver that. But from my experience, "up to" means you will consistently get half that speed. Grande is terrible. Comcast is slightly better, but not by much. The only ISP I have had that has delivered what I pay for is Spectrum. I pay for its 400 Mbps tier and consistently get over 450 Mbps and often up to 475.

As far as speeds are concerned I feel like ISPs should be forced to stop advertising their services as "up to X" and be forced to provide "AT LEAST X."

EDIT: Just as an afterthought I ran a test just now (new record):
 
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moobg

Posts: 40   +42
Great job Commiefornia! No wonder people are leaving in huge numbers!
Except they aren't. People spouting nonsense online doesn't make it true.

And here's an alternative headline to AT&T's bs. They could have just as easily offered zero-rating on all streaming video, but they took the route you'd expect from a company as inept as AT&T. This is a company that had over 25 million premium TV customers in 2017 yet drove customers away en masse to the tune of subscriber losses of about 8.5 million since then. This is a company that paid $49 billion for DirecTV in 2015, and it's now worth $15 billion. Their incompetence is almost unmatched.

Also, yes, I say this as a DirecTV subscriber because I've seen the service degradation over the past few years. The second I can't get an annual deal, I'm out. AT&T is awful.
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,668   +3,655
Ah yes, they should move to Republican occupied Texas and see it brought to its knees by a blizzard and then get hit with $17000 electric bills. Because you know, regulations that protect consumers suck.
CA and Texas are examples of what happens when extremism of one ideology governs a whole state. You want to see 100% liberalism in action? Look at California. You want to see 100% conservatism in action? Look at Texas.

They both suck
 

Mr Majestyk

Posts: 726   +616
Great job Commiefornia! No wonder people are leaving in huge numbers!

Do some research. AT&T are full of cr@p.

"AT&T lied about California's net neutrality law yesterday when it claimed the law requires AT&T to stop providing "free data" to mobile customers.

In reality, the California law allows AT&T to continue zero-rating HBO Max, its own video service, as long as it exempts all competing video services from data caps without charging the other video providers. But instead of zero-rating all video without collecting payments from its competitors in the online-video business, AT&T decided it would rather not exempt anything at all."
 

ypsylon

Posts: 348   +270
It seems that in the USA nothing can be free.

Free = Stalinism or something. Nuts!

Datacaps, really?

Yesterday I watched Drew from TailosiveTech rant about 17 days it took him to cancel Comcast. And he paid ~110$ for 1TB data cap before switching later to "Unlimited" for 140+. That's just criminal. For 110+USD I can get 4000+ up/down today if I call my ISP. 1000/1000 cost equivalent of 25$. Static IP less than 1$. No limits, logs, etc. Just FTTH. I pay like 12$ for 200/200, don't need more, probably ever.
 

BadThad

Posts: 492   +482
Except they aren't. People spouting nonsense online doesn't make it true.

And here's an alternative headline to AT&T's bs. They could have just as easily offered zero-rating on all streaming video, but they took the route you'd expect from a company as inept as AT&T. This is a company that had over 25 million premium TV customers in 2017 yet drove customers away en masse to the tune of subscriber losses of about 8.5 million since then. This is a company that paid $49 billion for DirecTV in 2015, and it's now worth $15 billion. Their incompetence is almost unmatched.

Also, yes, I say this as a DirecTV subscriber because I've seen the service degradation over the past few years. The second I can't get an annual deal, I'm out. AT&T is awful.
From your very own linked article:

"For example, fewer people moved into the state to replace those who left,” Natalie Holmes, research fellow at the California Policy Lab, said in a statement."

Translation, people are LEAVING CA for other states.
 

BadThad

Posts: 492   +482
Don't be stupid, atnt is not who you should trust here. They are completely full of crap.

Sorry too late on the stupid thing. I'm sure you're used to it.
I'm a scientist with 34 years of experience - do you consider us stupid? I've likely been working longer than you've been alive.

Sorry, I have more faith in private industry than I do in government, especially poorly run governments like CA.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,839   +1,068
JFC, this comment section is an absolute dumpster garbage fire. This is literally just California adopting nearly identical net neutrality language for a state law - after the Federal government ceded their authority to do so (they're more than welcome to pick up the mantel again - but that would mean, *gasp* regulations of some kind).

And now people are reading this piece, with an obvious pro-AT&T spin on it, and going 'boo, regulations'? Instead of criticizing AT&T for attempting to force customers to use only their services, the author effectively criticizes CA for AT&T limiting their own services. Instead of calling out data caps in general as the root cause, the author focuses on zero-rating as being a good thing?

Hey Techspot, you benefit from Net Neutrality, and not needing to worry about a site like Tech Crunch striking a deal to get zero-rated, leaving you guys out in the cold. You should remind Cal Jeffery of this.
 

hwertz

Posts: 33   +17
And the solution is simple -- having data caps on cable or DSL Internet is absurd, AT&T, get rid of your data caps!

This is actually specifically one of the things zero-rating is made to address -- your internet provider trying to force you into their video on demand or streaming service (even if it's inferior... more costly or less choice of shows), by setting an excessively low cap then zero-rating only their own service. AT&T can either suck it up and eliminate or significantly raise their caps, or lose customers to ISPs that provide better service.