Sunday , October 22 2017

Opinion: Telstra shows why net-neutrality is important, by zero-rating music streaming from only one provider

We haven’t really weighed in on the net neutrality debate that has been raging, and thanks to President Trump is likely to again, in the USA. Net neutrality is a complex issue but in the end, it’s about treating all bits as equal. An ISP should not treat Netflix any differently than YouTube when it comes to speed, most people agree on this. One of the more contentious parts of the net neutrality debate is the practice of zero-rating.

Zero-rating is where the traffic for a specific service/s does not count towards your monthly data cap. Imagine being able to stream all the music you wanted without it affecting your monthly cap. That’s exactly what Telstra is offering with their latest Apple Music offer. Telstra customers who sign up for Apple music through Telstra will not have the Apple music streaming data come off their monthly allowance.

Telstra are by no means the only telco in Australia to be offering zero rated data, but compared with other offerings, the single provider nature of Telstra’s plan would restrict customer choice on their network to just a single service.

This is in stark contrast to the likes of Optus, which are currently offering Google Play Music, iHeartRADIO, Pandora or Spotify for audio and Netflix, Stan and ABC for video, all with no data implications for the customer’s plan.

The issue with zero-rating data is it may “pick winners”. Are you going to sign up for the latest music streaming start-up if you have another choice at the same price and the data is free? That’s consumer choice or capitalism I hear you say? The proponents of net neutrality would say that it’s monopolistic, you see the incumbents can afford to make the deals to have your data free, it reduces competition and stifles innovation.

The real issue with zero-rating is consumers love it, what you want to give me free data? Sign me up! I live with the daily anguish of balancing my 322MB of daily data I’d love more data or some data just not to count, but some things come up too high a price.

Sure, in the short-term zero-rating feels like a great deal for consumers, but in the long run, consumers just may be doing themselves a disservice. Once all the competition in any space is gone do you really think those left standing will bother paying for your data? Do you think without competition they will charge the lowest price possible?

It’s hard to convince people that zero-rating is somehow bad, we even had extensive debates about it amongst ourselves, and the team were divided about if this even is a net neutrality issue. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see more deals like this spring up, and it’s not all good news.

Do you think zero-rating data is an issue? Do you think it violates net neutrality? Let us know below.

 

Duncan Jaffrey   Journalist

Duncan has been interested in technology since coding "Mary had a little Lamb" in Basic on his ZX Spectrum. A fan of all things Android, most days you'll find Duncan trawling the web for Android news or quietly editing away on Map Maker.

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10 Comments on "Opinion: Telstra shows why net-neutrality is important, by zero-rating music streaming from only one provider"

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Member
I don’t understand the problem here. Optus zero-rate music as well, it’s a value added bonus for those subscribers. I’d consider apple music myself if I were a Telstra customer. There is little difference between spotify apple music, google play music, etc. They all have roughly the same catalogue, they all have curated and user created playlists, they all have artist or track radio (select an artist or song and get similar music), they all have music playlist auto generation based on the mood, events (christmas, NYE, etc), genre or activity you select. They are all very similar. The difference… Read more »
Member
Dean Rosolen

Zero-rating is just a byproduct of data caps IMO. As long as data caps exist, there will be zero-rating.

While I can see where it would technically violate net neutrality rules, it seems like the lessar of two evils (having had to manage 100GB a month with new game releases only growing in size was a nightmare).

Duncan_J
Valued Guest
Duncan_J

Really enjoying all opinions here, thanks for keeping it civil and please keep in discussing

Craig Muldoon
Valued Guest
Craig Muldoon

I have been a devoted Spotify user but with the ability to transfer my playlists to Apple and saving $10 per month by dropping Spotify Telstra have indeed chosen my streaming music provider. I think Spotify is a much better service and application but I can now get the core for free for 12 months. The chance that I’ll stick with Apple after 12 months, which is what they’ll hope, is zilch.

I understand and agree with the net neutrality position of “bits are bits”, but I’ll still benefit from it where I can.

Member

I don’t care what words mean and what people referring to them mean. I have no issue with a telco offering any or all of the services you get from the company at no data or financial cost to your plan. I agree with those that say as long as they provide proper coverage for all services and don’t shape those services.

I see it the same as if Telstra offer 100gb, 1000gb or unlimited for a price. It all goes to what plan you choose.

JMTC

Member
The core issue of Net Neutrality is where an ISP (wireless or otherwise) attempts to charge the source of the data – e.g. the audio or video provider – in order for that provider to NOT be shaped. Basically, “pay us this monthly fee, or we’ll rate-limit the data from you to our customers”. If the service refuses to pay the fee, then the customer loses out, because they won’t get an optimal experience. It gets even yuckier when, particularly in the US, most ISPs are in cahoots with (generally owned by or an owner of) a content provider –… Read more »
Aaron
Valued Guest
Aaron
Net Neutrality can come in different forms. Netflix agreed that their unmetered deals with AU ISP’s breaks net neutrality Their investor note from 2015: “Data caps inhibit Internet innovation and are bad for consumers. In Australia, we recently sought to protect our new members from data caps by participating in ISP programs that, while common in Australia, effectively condone discrimination among video services (some capped, some not). We should have avoided that and will avoid it going forward. Fortunately, most fixed-line ISPs are raising or eliminating data caps in line with our belief that ISPs should provide great video for… Read more »
Duncan_J
Valued Guest
Duncan_J

Thanks Aaron, a great bit of info there.

ChrisLaarman
Valued Guest
ChrisLaarman
I’m still trying to get the picture, so I may well see it wrongly. I had learned that net neutrality is about /priority/ for the transport of certain data, not (so much) about the /price/. I’ll find out, as I’m affected. My provider (T-Mobile in the Netherlands) doesn’t count the transport of streaming music from a number of providers if I pay for at least 6 GB monthly. Not counting the subscription fee that I may owe these music providers. It is being investigated if this conflicts with (EU) net neutrality rules. I perceive this as some form of volume… Read more »
Duncan_J
Valued Guest
Duncan_J

It’s definately not your core net neutrality that many major news outlets focus on. It’s my belief, and others, that anything that promotes a single services above another (under terms other provider’s can’t access) violates the Tennant’s of all bits being equal.

Speed is not the only factor in network traffic, I would argue especially for mobile data data caps are a more significant issue for many.

Making some bits free discriminates in their favour.

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