AT&T halting some free data services in response to California law

AT&T halting some free data services in response to California law

News: AT&T halting some free data services in response to California law.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – AT&T Inc announced on Wednesday that it would shut down some free data services in response to a California net neutrality law. This is the recent focal point in an ongoing debate about internet rules.

The US cellular operator said the law bans “sponsored data” services that allow companies such as video providers to pay for the data usage of certain AT&T cellular customers.

“With the Internet not recognizing state borders, the new law not only ends our ability to offer such free data services to California customers, it also affects our customers in states outside of California,” said a statement from AT&T.

Refused to indicate how many customers are affected.

In February, U.S. Judge John Mendez said he would not block California’s 2018 Net Neutrality Act, which prohibited Internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or offering paid fast lanes. The law had previously been put on hold.

AT&T mobile communications customers with tiered plans who also have an AT&T video service such as DIRECTV or AT&T TV and stream this service over the AT&T radio network are affected. AT&T Wireless customers with unlimited plans are not affected.

The company announced the change to customers late Tuesday, effective March 25, in an email titled “Data Free TV Ends”.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the former President Barack Obama passed rules on net neutrality in 2015. These were repealed in 2017 by the FCC under President Donald Trump. The California legislature responded by passing a state law that requires net neutrality in August 2018.

Under the Obama administration, the FCC sent letters raising concerns about AT&T and Verizon-sponsored data practices that violated net neutrality rules. The Trump FCC ended these investigations, saying the free data plans had “increased competition in the wireless market”.

Some critics claim that sponsored data services may trick users into avoiding competitor video services.

In January, the U.S. Department of Justice withdrew its legal challenge to California’s Trump-era net neutrality law after Democrat President Joe Biden took office.

Industry groups contesting the law have appealed Mendez’s decision to the US Ninth Court of Appeals.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Adaptation by Jan Harvey

Original Source © Reuters

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