FCC warns AT&T on ‘zero-rating’ DirecTV Now

The US communications regulator, the FCC, has warned AT&T that it is concerned about its plans for the DirecTV Now streaming service.

DirecTV, which is owned by US telco AT&T, is rolling out its streaming product later this month with about 100 channels for US$35 (€32), and AT&T will reportedly scrap data charges for its mobile customers who take the new service.

In a letter sent to AT&T this week, the FCC said it was concerned that a ‘sponsored data’ plan could be anti-competitive and has demanded the telco respond by November 21.

“I am writing to express serious concerns about the impact of AT&T Mobility’s “Sponsored Data” program on competition for mobile video services,” Jon Wilkins, head of the FCC’s wireless division wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Robert W. Quinn, Jr., AT&T’s SVP, external and legislative affairs.

The letter went on to outline concerns that AT&T’s plans might “obstruct competition and harm consumers by constraining their ability to access existing and future mobile video services not affiliated with AT&T.”

The telco immediately countered that offering DirecTV Now ‘data free’ was a benefit for consumers, and that it would welcome similar moves by other pay TV players.

In related news, the premium cable channels from Starz will be on DirecTV Now.

The deal with Starz will see eight of the Starz Encore nets added to the DirecTV Now service, with the core Starz channel being added later.

The Starz Encore VOD catalogue will also be added, meaning DirecTV Now customers can access Starz’ library shows.

AT&T has already struck streaming deals with channel operators including HBO for DirecTV Now.

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