Marquett Smith, Verizon’s president for the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., region was enthusiastic when he described what his company is giving away to mobile device users during Thanksgiving week.
I suspect the reason for the excitement was because Verizon is breaking new ground by not insisting that the giveaway be limited to subscribers, and in fact is free to anyone on any wireless carrier. He was right that this is pretty unusual.
“It’s a great way to thank customers for their loyalty,” Smith said, “And to non-customers, look what you’re missing.”
The stuff Verizon Wireless is giving away starting Nov. 26, which the mobile carrier is calling “Connection Day,” includes free half-hour WiFi sessions at airports using Boingo, half-hour free WiFi sessions in flight with Gogo Technologies and free WiFi on JetBlue flights for the duration of the flight. No word on whether the Jet Blue offer includes the multi-hour durations while passengers are stranded on the runway waiting for arrival at the gate.
Verizon’s deal also includes such things as a week of the Pandora One music streaming service, free editions of Conde Nast publications and free products from Apple and Amazon including Audible books from Amazon. The full list is available on Verizon’s Connection Day Website.
The reasoning behind these offers, according to Smith, is that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day in the U.S. Verizon is providing these things as a way to make the trip less arduous. You can even stream free movies from Verizon FiOS, assuming your data cap will handle it. For Verizon Wireless users, there’s an extra free gigabyte of shared data to help cover this.
If this sounds a lot like what T-Mobile is doing for music streaming by allowing mobile users to stream music free from data limits and charges, you’re right. The biggest difference is that T-Mobile’s giveaway is only for that company’s subscribers and it’s only for music. But it’s not limited to a single day, either.
Of course, many of the things that Verizon is giving away for free on Connection Day also last for more than a day. But sadly, the free goodies that Verizon is offering for Connection Day may not be back at the same time next year. The same may be true for T-Mobile’s free music deal. The reason is not because of a lack of desire on the part of either Verizon or T-Mobile. Instead, you may have the Federal Communications Commission to thank.
One little-known facet of the net neutrality rules being kicked around at the FCC and the White House are rules that would limit preferential treatment for some traffic.
Verizon Holiday Giveaways Could Be Heading for Legal Extinction
The primary reason behind that is to prevent cable companies from offering fast connections to big media streaming companies such as NetFlix. But depending on exactly how the rules are worded, they could just as easily mean wireless companies couldn’t offer free music streaming or free WiFi at airports or on airliners.
Think about what net neutrality really means, which is to treat all network traffic exactly the same, within the bounds of good network administration. This means that while a carrier can filter out a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack legally, it can’t give away some access for free.
Your free music on T-Mobile and your free streaming on Verizon would be regarded as preferential treatment and therefore potentially illegal even if allowed by the carriers, depending on how the administration in Washington write the rules.
By now you’re probably asking yourself: how this can be? After all, isn’t allowing free streaming somehow different from fast lanes for NetFlix? But the reality is that it’s not.
The way the current communications laws are written, they apply to the wired landline phone companies of yore, but really don’t make a lot of sense when applied to wireless phones of the Internet. The old landlines, after all, existed to carry voice calls and that was pretty much it. Today’s wireless and Internet communications are really not the same at all.
This is one reason why I’ve said repeatedly that strictly applying Title II to the Internet or to wireless communications is lunacy. While there needs to be some form of regulation, using Title II simply isn’t sensible regulation by any measure.
For now, at least, you can still take advantage of the FCC’s leisurely pace in considering how old regulations should apply to new forms of communications. This means now is a very good time to navigate over to the Verizon Connection Day Website and sign up for the free offers while they last. Let’s face it, free streaming is a good deal, even if it’s for a short time.
And when the time comes when free stuff from carriers is limited, remind yourself that it’s the White House that’s keeping you from having nice things. Of course, it’s not the fault of President Obama’s administration. Congress is eagerly helping pile on the inability to actually legislate in ways that make sense. So feel free to hurl insults at both sides, and two years from now when it’s time for the next election remember that these are the folks who took your music away.
Meanwhile, I plan to gratefully sample some of Verizon’s free stuff while I still can.