US regulator Federal Communications Commission (FCC) closed an ongoing investigation into zero-rated data programs offered by the country’s operators without taking any action.
In a statement, new chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai (pictured) said the free-data plans offered by top operators including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile US had proved popular among consumers and enhanced competition in the country’s mobile market.
“Going forward, the Federal Communications Commission will not focus on denying Americans free data,” he said.
The move is the latest indication Pai will move to undo the country’s net neutrality rules, imposed by the previous administration.
Following the election of new President Donald Trump in November, he stated the regulation’s days were numbered.
The FCC launched an investigation into certain zero-rated services, which allows US consumers to stream video content from applications without it counting against data caps, last year under previous commissioner Tom Wheeler.
As part of the 2015 Open Internet Order, net neutrality laws prohibit providers from offering a better quality of service to certain online content at the expense of other services, and the FCC said it would look at zero-rated offerings on a case by case basis.
Indeed, one of the last acts of the previous commissioner was to send letters to AT&T and Verizon, warning the operators their zero-rated offering violated net neutrality rules and harmed competition.
It said AT&T, through its Sponsored Data program, offered third party providers less favourable terms and conditions than those it offers to its affiliate DirecTV.
It voiced similar concerns of Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360, which offers mobile video through its Go90 video platform.
However, with Pai’s latest move both companies are free to continue offering their respective services.
AT&T said in a statement the decision to close the investigation was a “win for millions of customers”.