Verizon Zero-Rates Some go90 Streaming

Verizon has begun to zero-rate streaming of go90 content for postpaid customers when they are connected to the mobile carrier’s LTE network.

That’s according to a new customer agreement distributed this week by Verizon, caught first by DSL Reports.

“Beginning on or about February 4, 2016, if you are a Verizon Wireless post-paid customer and you download the current version of go90 (release 1.4), you can watch any video on go90 without incurring Verizon Wireless data usage charges so long as you are connected to LTE," the agreement states. "Other activity that does not involve watching videos, such as downloading go90 from an app store, browsing or searching for shows, posting comments, sharing clips and viewing settings will incur data usage charges.”

Verizon, which launched the ad-supported go90 OTT service in October 2015, has already been experimenting with zero-rated policies that have gotten the attention of network neutrality advocates. Last month, it began to test FreeBee Data, a sponsored service that is exempt from mobile data-usage policies.

The current go90 agreement also makes note that Verizon may also offer  “promotions and/or plans that allow you to watch some or all go90 Content without incurring data use charges” from Verizon and other wireless providers.

Update: Verizon told Re/code that the new policy for go90 does “take advantage of Verizon’s FreeBeeData 360 service, which allows them to pay for customer’s data usage associated with watching videos on the Go90 app….“FreeBee Data 360 is an open, non-exclusive service available to other content providers on a non-discriminatory basis. Any interested content provider can use FreeBee Data 360 to expand their audiences by giving consumers the opportunity to enjoy their content without incurring data charges.”

Those data usage costs, the carrier added, “falls to Go90 and we wanted to give our users an opportunity to watch everything in the app without it counting against their data plans.”

Verizon's FreeBee approach followed the launch of “Binge On” from T-Mobile, which uses a proprietary, bandwidth-efficient encoding system that delivers mobile video in 480p format (DVD quality), and zero-rates streams from several content partners, including Netflix, HBO, Starz, Sling TV, and Hulu. AT&T, meanwhile, has dropped hints that it is evaluating sponsored-data services.

Verizon gave the FCC the heads up about FreeBee Data prior to the launch of the sponsored-data offering. The FCC, which will take a case-by-case approach on new sponsored-data and zero-rated policies and services, noted that it "will continue to communicate with the company [Verizon, in this instance] on this issue.”

 In the meantime, the FCC is on a fact-finding mission for services such as Comcast’s "Stream" IPTV service, an in-home, managed IP-based service tailored for cord-cutters that’s not delivered “over-the-top” and, therefore, not tied into the MSO’s usage-based broadband data trials, as well as T-Mobile’s Binge On service.