ESPN has been making a little bit of noise recently about being willing to throw a few bucks towards wireless providers in exchange for letting its content roll through to users without affecting their data caps. While this may sound like a good deal for sports fans stuck with low data caps, there's a whole lot wrong with this "offer," above and beyond the obvious "pay-to-skirt-net-neutrality" issue. Chris Morran has a good rundown of the negative side effects ESPN's data subsidy would unleash. First and foremost, ESPN offering to help out users with data caps plays right into the industry's talking points.
Subsidizing wireless usage in this way would only give rise to this myth that smartphone data plans are capped because of congestion and a supposed high cost of moving data. However, studies show that the cost of delivering content to wireless customers has dropped while the user base has increased.
Morran's right. The last thing the wireless providers need is someone granting credence (albeit in a very roundabout way) to their ongoing myth of congestion and costs. This allows these providers to continue dining out on this story while simultaneously casting themselves as "good guys" in the new narrative. "See, we're allowing you to access popular content without using up a chunk of your data plan!" ESPN gets preferential treatment, the providers make more money and everyone wins. Well, almost.
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