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Sep 1

Where is the line in the sand for zero rating?

It’s a trend which has been growing steadily in the UK, but the line has not been found yet; when are zero rating offerings going to irk the bureaucrats of the telco world?

Vodafone has just unveiled VOXI, a young-orientated mobile service which provides zero rating on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and Viber. Three has Go Binge, which offers free streaming on Netflix, SoundCloud, Dave and other channels. EE offers Apple Music streaming for free. Virgin Media offers zero rating for Twitter, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. It’s become endemic.

But when will competition authorities decide the practise is not fair? Over in the US, AT&T and Verizon have been bickering with the FCC over the legalities of zero rating offers, but such arguments don’t seem to have crossed the pond in any substantial manner to date. This in itself seems odd; usually the European Commission usually can’t wait to get it’s hands on a competition challenge, but it doesn’t seem to be bothered yet.

Maybe it is preoccupied, maybe it’s because its holiday time, or maybe the telcos haven’t crossed the invisible line yet. As regulation usually lags behind technological developments, there is often a testing of the boundaries. Like toddlers, the tech giants will push the limits until they upset the overseers and get sent to the naughty step.

That seems to be where the zero rating offers are at the moment. The line hasn’t been found and the lumbering giant in Brussels remains snoozing, working off a gluttony of lunch time chocolate smothered waffles. But this does seem to right in the Brussels ballpark, after all, zero rating offers do nudge users towards preferential services.

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