Virgin, Verizon explore data-free streaming programs to mixed response

Virgin Mobile canvasWe have seen increased interest among mobile service providers in letting customers use select platforms without charging their data plans. T-Mobile has been the trailblazer in this field, with its Music Freedom program offering customers streaming that won’t count against of their phone plan’s data limits; the company says 95% of music on streaming services is now covered under the program.

Virgin Mobile USA has also been experimenting in this space. The company just added 8tracks and Samsung’s Milk Music to its roster of data-free streaming services. It first rolled out the concept in October with the announcement of Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Slacker covered for listeners.

Verizon canvasAlso in this space, Verizon has reportedly been considering this type of sponsored data plan in the same vein as AT&T. According to MediaPost, Verizon’s plan may involve taking payment from certain websites in order to have their content not count against data plans. T-Mobile’s Music Freedom doesn’t appear to have transactions with streaming platforms for inclusion. The core of these data-free mobile strategies have drawn criticism for potentially breaking rules about net neutrality, which are designed to prevent online services from paying Internet companies to have their content appear faster or in preferred places.

“There are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others,” The New York Times wrote in an editorial.

Anna Washenko