Verizon To Follow Lead Of AT&T, T-Mobile; Try Some Sort Of Sponsored Data

The largest wireless provider in the U.S. has also been one of the least innovative in terms of its pricing. Its Chief Financial Officer even said earlier this year that “We’re a leader, not a follower.” And yet, Big V is just beginning to dip its toes into an idea that its competition has been swimming in for quite some time.

Verizon Executive VP Marni Walden tells re/code that the company is going to begin testing sponsored data — that is, data which is subsidized by the content source so the customer isn’t charged for all of the mega- and gigabytes they access over their wireless account.

Walden didn’t say who Verizon was working with, only that it’s currently a limited number of partners and that “We’ll be out in a larger commercial way in the first quarter of 2016.”

It might be a new idea for Verizon, but it’s one that AT&T announced nearly two years ago, and has been fiddling with ever since.

T-Mobile has been the only company to make any sort of splash with sponsored data. First, by not charging customers’ wireless data for access to certain streaming music services. Then, more recently, it added a number of video to that mix to create Binge On.

In the lead-up to the FCC’s vote on the 2015 Open Internet (aka “net neutrality”) Order (currently being challenged in court by AT&T; Verizon successfully gutted the first one from 2010), the Chicken Little lobbyists for the wireless industry claimed that the increased regulatory scrutiny of broadband would be the end for sponsored data.

And yet, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has said on the record that sponsored data is “highly innovative and highly competitive.”