AT&T begins counting HBO Max in opposition to knowledge limits, blaming California’s web neutrality legislation

John Stankey

Stephen Desaulniers | CNBC

AT&T will no longer exempt the audience of its HBO Max streaming service from data restrictions after a federal court upheld California’s net neutrality law, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

The company announced to customers that it will no longer offer “Data Free TV” for its video apps from March 25th. This is evident from a copy of the CNBC customer notice. That means customers need to be connected to WiFi to avoid their streaming counting towards their total data caps. The change will extend beyond California as AT&T said, “The Internet does not recognize state lines.”

The announcement underscores a key industry concern regarding government action affecting the internet sector. Similar to digital data protection laws that currently only exist in a few states, the tech industry fears that a patchwork of state laws will make operations difficult, especially for smaller businesses.

“A government approach to” net neutrality “is impractical,” AT&T said in a statement announcing the change to the data ceiling. “A patchwork of government regulations, many of which are too restrictive, creates barriers to creative and consumer-friendly solutions.”

Net neutrality is the idea that Internet service providers should be neutral about the content they host and should not speed up or slow down delivery speeds for certain websites or services. Under California law, which a federal judge said could be enforced last month, AT&T is not allowed to “sponsor” data for customers who also use their wireless services.

California’s net neutrality law came into being after the Trump administration’s decision to reverse an Obama-era net neutrality rule at the Federal Communications Commission. The old rule introduced the principle of net neutrality by reinterpreting Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 so that Internet service providers are considered joint network operators subject to more stringent regulation.

AT&T said it “has long been committed to the principles of an open internet” and urged Congress to pass federal laws to make it easier and affordable for Americans to access the internet “while maintaining clear, consistent, and lasting rules for to provide net neutrality for all consequences. “

Steve Kopack from CNBC contributed to this report.

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