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FCC Commissioner: T-Mobile's Music Freedom program may violate agency's 'Internet conduct standard'

FCC Commissioner Ajit Varadaraj Pai said mobile content such as music that some service providers exempt from data limits could be in violation of the agency’s new Internet conduct standard.

Pai cited T-Mobile’s music freedom program as an example.

“If you are a T-Mobile wireless customer and you have a data cap you might think, ‘well, I have to be careful about how I consume data.’ Well, T-Mobile has a program called music freedom, which exempts certain programs like Spotify and Pandora from those data caps, so if you listen to a bunch of songs when you are walking around that content does not count against your data cap,” Pai said during an Internet regulation discussion hosted by the Federalist Society.

“So, generally speaking, free content seems to be a good thing for most wireless consumers but the agency explicitly said that could be considered a net neutrality violation under the Internet conduct standard. And that simply raises the question, how far will this Internet content standard go? What kinds of business practices that innovative new competitors might want to introduce might be frowned upon by the FCC?” he added.

The agency passed the net neutrality rules in February of this year. Pai said the FCC has established an enforcement advisory opinion process where companies have the opportunity to ask the agency for permission to create new programs.

“Companies can come in and ask ‘mother may I? May I do this kind of business practice?’ Even then the agency said, ‘well, if we give you advice you can’t necessarily rely on it and I can bet you if you don’t come to the agency and ask for advice it’s going to be used against you in the future in enforcement proceedings.’ So the question is where do we go from here?” he said.

Pai told the audience it remains unclear how the agency will ultimately use the Internet conduct standard.

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