AT&T’s new HBO Max streaming service is exempt from the carrier’s mobile data caps, although competing services like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ count toward monthly data limits. This news is reported today in the version article by The Vergewhich said that AT & T “confirmed to The Verge that HBO Max will be released from the company’s traditional data centers and soft data keys available on unlimited plans.”
Traditional data caps limit customers to a certain amount of data each month before they have to pay overage fee or withstand extreme slowdowns for the rest of the month. “Soft data caps on unlimited plans” is apparently a reference to 22GB or 50GB thresholds, after which unlimited data users can be significantly lower than other users when connected to a crowded cell tower.
“According to an AT&T executive familiar with the matter, HBO Max uses AT&T’s ‘data-backed’ system, which technically allows any company to pay to exempt its services from data caps, ” wrote the Verge. But since AT&T owns HBO Max, it just pays itself: the data fee shows up on HBO Max’s books as an expense and on AT&T Mobility’s books as income. For AT&T as a whole, it is eliminated. Compare that to a competitor. like Netflix, which could theoretically pay AT&T for supported data, but it would be a clean fee.”
We asked AT&T whether HBO Max will also be exempt from AT&T Internet data caps and will update this article if we receive a response. (Update: AT&T told us that the new streaming service is exempt from home Internet caps, so “HBO Max will count against your home data allowance.”) AT&T’s home and mobile data caps have been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic until at least June 30but AT&T will probably bring them back sometime after that.
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AT&T has owned HBO since it bought Time Warner in May 2018. HBO Max, which costs $15 a month, is essentially an expansion of the HBO Now service. HBO Max’s user interface didn’t impress Ars analyst Sam Machkovech when he tested it last week.
When Democrat Tom Wheeler chaired the Federal Communications Commission, the agency ruled that AT&T and Verizon Wireless violated net neutrality laws by allowing their own pay-as-you-go video services without counting against customers’ mobile data caps while charging video providers. another for the same data cap exemptions. In that case, AT&T lets you stream DirecTV services without counting against the cap. The FCC rescinded the search less than two weeks after President Trump nominated Republican Ajit Pai to the presidency, and carriers have been free to implement data-cap exemptions as they wish.
In July 2015, when AT&T bought DirecTV, Wheeler filed an FCC order general condition that prevents AT&T from removing its own online video services from Internet data caps. But the position has a four-year term and expires in 2019, and the position does not apply to AT&T’s mobile network.