The number of examples of “network neutrality” logic breaking down comes from Marriott. Starting initially at a handful of Marriott hotels, guests with Netflix accounts can watch their Netflix content directly from the televisions in their rooms, without buying the hotel Internet access.
Some people would say that is a clear example of sponsored data usage. To the extent that network neutrality is framed as “all bits and apps are treated alike,” it is hard to square this use case.
To be sure, many think sponsored data or sponsored apps are not a violation of the network neutrality framework, any more than “toll free calling,” coupons, Groupons or discounts and promotions in general are a problem.
But that’s part of the problem. Restricting consumer access features to “best effort only” does not allow for quality features some apps require, some customers might prefer and some ISPs might use to differentiate and innovate.
That is the same logic behind Internet.org and other efforts to speed up Internet access adoption by allowing people to sample the value of the Internet. Zero rated apps have proven to be an effective way to allow sampling and rapidly increase use of the Internet on a permanent basis.
Only available at six hotels for now, with another six coming soon, Marriott plans to offer access in 100 properties by the end of 2015, and plans to support such access at nearly all of its 300 U.S. hotels should be on board by the end of 2016.