Zero-Rating and Sponsored Data Strategies of Internet Service Providers: A Systematic Review of the Literature
44 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 26, 2019
Internet service providers have recently introduced “zero-rating” and “sponsored data” as new tariff components in mobile communications markets, which exempt the data traffic of certain content and services providers or even certain types (e.g., social networking, gaming, music and video streaming) from counting against the monthly data cap of consumers. Despite the growing literature on this topic, a conceptualization of both practices and a synthesis of the literature is missing. We provide a systematic review of the literature and propose a framework using the price structure, bandwidth per consumer, and the degree of discrimination, to map the different strategies with and configurations of zero-rating and sponsored data. Moreover, we systematically analyze the findings from the literature and derive strategy-specific insights. Finally, we scrutinize both practices in the context of net neutrality, make recommendations to regulators, and identify promising areas for future research. We find zero-rating and sponsored data to be non-neutral data accounting practices, which represent a problematic type of discrimination if Internet service providers combine them with a non-neutral data cap enforcement policy.
Keywords: Internet Access, Zero-Rating, Sponsored Data, Data Cap, Mobile Communications, Net Neutrality, Regulation, Competition, Economics of Information Systems
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