AT&T excludes HBO Max from data limits, but enforces it on other services

When AT&T purchased HBO’s parent company back in 2018, many streaming television fans were left wondering how that would affect streaming services down the line. 

We have our first glimpse at that now as it’s been revealed that HBO Max won’t count towards AT&T customers’ data plans, but competitors Netflix Disney+, Amazon, and the rest will.

It’s true that most customers have unlimited data these days, but data becomes throttled to be slower once a user passes a certain allocation, so data caps are still somewhat important. 

At first glance, this seems like a pretty straightforward violation of the net neutrality rules the FCC put in place back in 2015. But aside from the fact that those rules have since been reversed, AT&T justifies the move under their “sponsored data” policy where companies can pay to loosen data restrictions. In this scenario, AT&T basically paid itself to do just that. 

In short, they’re not breaking any laws, it’s just good old-fashioned nepotism. 

HBO Max, which debuted just last month, is off to a reasonably strong start so far. While it’s yet to be seen just how well people will respond, a lot of industry experts are saying if there’s ever going to be a true Netflix competitor, this is it.

Of course, if data caps are an issue, users of other services can still somewhat get around them by downloading content over wi-fi and watching later. It’s a little more involved process, but it gets the job done.

Artie Beaty