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Verizon Details Its Plans for Toll-Free Data

Dubbed FreeBee, the program lets businesses sponsor a customer's use of an app or website or even a particular action, like a specific download.

Verizon on Tuesday announced it is ready to start testing FreeBee, its take on sponsored data.

Akin to a toll-free call, sponsored data lets a company pick up the tab for a certain amount of data use in order to get its message to customers. While the move could allow individuals to cut costs, net neutrality advocates say the move threatens to allow bigger companies to thwart smaller rivals that can’t afford to pay for customers’ data use.

Verizon said FreeBee, which is in beta, will initially consist of two options. In one, content providers can allow visitors to their app or mobile website to provide customers some or all of their data for free. Another option let’s businesses pay for data on a per-click basis, sponsoring actions like a movie clip or app download as well as streaming video or music.

Re/code reported in December that Verizon was set to start testing a sponsored data service.

“The capabilities we’ve built allow us to break down any byte that is carried across our network and have all or a portion of that sponsored,” Verizon Executive VP Marni Walden said in a December interview.

AT&T has been testing a sponsored data option for a couple of years now, but has kept the trial fairly small in size as it gauges both market interest and public reaction to the idea.

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