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Verizon Told FCC About FreeBee

The Federal Communications Commission got a heads up about Verizon's just-announced FreeBee sponsored data service, but a company spokesperson said it is not unusual for it to share such information with the FCC as it announces it to the public.

According to an FCC official who asked not to be identified, Verizon "proactively let FCC staff know about the new offering and provided associated materials." A Verizon spokesman confirmed that was accurate.

The FCC official said the commission "will continue to communicate with the company on this issue."

The Verizon spokesperson said that it was not unusual for Verizon to "share the news with the FCC when it is shared publicly."

The FCC has been communicating with a number of companies on their zero-rating and sponsored data plans as it works out the enforcement of new Open Internet rules, which will take a case-by-case approach to the impact of new business models on the "virtuous circle" of unimpeded flows—no blocking, degrading or paid prioritizing—between consumer and broadband content. The FCC held meetings and gathered facts over the past month—FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said it was not an investigation—on Comcast's Stream TV, AT&T's sponsored data plans and Binge On

That inquiry followed Wheeler's suggestion that Binge On was the kind of pro-competitive, pro-innovation business model the FCC's new rules were not meant to stifle and the ensuing pushback from net neutrality activists that apparent green light prompted.

As part of the new net neutrality rules, which attempt to cover both existing and new business models, the FCC said it would issue advisory opinions if companies wished "to seek guidance on the propriety of certain open Internet practices before implementing them."

The FCC official would not comment on the timing of the heads-up or whether Verizon got any feedback on the service, which will exempt some online content from usage-based pricing.

The Verizon spokesperson was checking on the timing at press time, but said they had not sought such an advisory opinion or provided information before its public announcement.