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AT&T Customers Can No Longer Stream HBO Max Without Counting Towards Their Data Cap

Jeff Kotuby

AT&T customers will now have to account for HBO Max data usage after a California law banned sponsored data services — even if they’re all under the same corporate umbrella.

California’s net neutrality law, the California Internet Consumer Protection and Net Neutrality Act of 2018, specifically bans zero-rating, a practice in which internet service providers give users access without any financial cost while under pre-defined conditions. In this case, streaming using HBO Max wouldn’t incur any sort of data charges, while streaming Netflix and Hulu would count towards a user’s data cap.

AT&T, predictably, is unhappy with the ruling. On Wednesday, the company posted a blog discussing the matter and how the company would move forward. “We regret the inconvenience to customers caused by California’s new “net neutrality” law,” the post stated. “Given that the Internet does not recognize state borders, the new law not only ends our ability to offer California customers such free data services but also similarly impacts our customers in states beyond California.”

AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, HBO Max’s parent company, was motivated by the ability to integrate Time Warner’s content offerings with AT&T’s other businesses. They’ll now have to get creative with how they do so.

Many see the ruling as a win for users, as service providers can no longer attempt to influence purchasing decisions by offering deals like the one AT&T had with HBO Max. Stanford law professor Barbara van Schewick was among the celebrators, saying in a blog post, “Let’s be clear: This is a win for an open and free internet, including for competing video services and internet users. People should be free to choose which videos they want to watch - whether that’s Netflix, Twitch or their local church’s Sunday service, without the company they pay to get online trying to influence their choices.”

You can read the entire piece of legislation on California’s Legislative Information website.

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