Whenever you watch a video, post a picture, or send a message, the bytes that make up that item are analyzed and tallied by your internet provider. Once enough of them pile up, you’ve reached your data cap — annoying, right?
But what if some of those data-heavy apps and services just didn’t count towards that cap? That’s what’s called “zero rating,” and while it sounds good in theory, it’s rather problematic in practice. So how does it work, who does it, and why do people think it’s such a big deal?
Many will first have heard the term zero rating relatively recently, in the form of programs like T-Mobile’s “Binge On,” which exempts certain streaming video and music services from data counts. That way, people don’t blow through their data caps while, say, watching Netflix on the bus to work every day.
On a technical level, zero rating is a pretty simple process. The packets of data that go to and fro on the internet (wireless and…