att sponsored data

AT&T raised more than a few eyebrows on Monday when it announced a new ‘Sponsored Data’ program. The goal of the program is essentially to offer a way for companies to pick up the tab for 4G data usage whenever specific products or services are being used.

Initial feedback to the announcement has been a mix of “what an interesting idea” and complaints from net neutrality advocates. And today, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler chimed in, using his time at CES to discuss his off-the-cuff thoughts on AT&T’s proposition…

The Verge has Wheeler’s comments from CES:

“My attitude is: let’s take a look at what this is, let’s take a look at how it operates,” Wheeler said. “And be sure, that if it interferes with the operation of the internet; that if it develops into an anticompetitive practice; that if it does have some kind of preferential treatment given somewhere, then that is cause for us to intervene. […]

He outlined what wireless and broadband service companies should do to stay out of the FCC’s crosshairs: “you won’t screw up operation of the internet, you won’t act in anticompetitive or preferential ways.” He added: “We’ll use those kinds of tests to see what the appropriate response [from the FCC] will be, if any.”

The biggest fear is that AT&T’s new Sponsored Data plan could morph into a kind of anticompetitive practice. Specifically, it could help the apps and services of companies wealthy enough to pay for customers’ data box out the startups that can’t, creating a monopoly.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. This isn’t the first time AT&T has found itself in the FCC’s crosshairs. In 2012, the carrier came under fire for blocking FaceTime over Cellular access on iOS devices for customers who weren’t using its newer Share plans.

For more of our thoughts on AT&T’s Sponsored Data, check out this week’s episode of Let’s Talk iOS.

What do you make of all of this?

  • kumar714

    AT&T isn’t getting far with there scam. LOL
    Hopefully FCC do there job right.

    • D R

      “My attitude is: let’s take a look at what this is, let’s take a look at how it operates”

      He’s an industry shill, he isn’t going to do anything. This is part of something known as “regulatory capture”, where the industry gets to control what the regulator does, occasionally throwing a bone to the public, but generally screwing them over.

      This ‘double paid for data’ will just happen to have better throughput and less latency than data that only you paid for. And make no mistake, you will pay for this data as well, because there is no way for you to determine whether or not you have been charged for it.

    • Dennis Cimmino


  • on3simpleclick

    This is messed up. The FCC needs to stop in & crush this before it kicks off.

  • China Mobile has been doing this for a long time, though the relationship between CM and sponsor is under the table.

  • chumawumba

    When will AT&T learn…

  • Jeremy

    I am seriously considering switching to T-Mobile from AT&T, especially because of the payed for ETFs. Much cheaper and probably better service anyways.

    • Nate McKelvie

      The minute t-mobiles service hits the same level as the other carriers ( which it will ) I will switch as well

  • jack

    Carriers are evil

  • Mario

    Hey guys, I’m from Germany and this is not something completely new. I’m on t-mobile here and they have been partners with spotify for over a year. The music that I am streaming from spotify does not count against my included Highspeed data. Sometimes even syncing my playlists for offline listening works too. And I love it! This offering even was the push for me to switch from a free user to a paid one.

    But and yes it’s a big but is the net-neutrality. On my phone for some reason I don’t really care for it since it’s not much data that you can browse with or anything. But t-mobile (Telekom here in Germany) had/has plans to cap the high-speed data volume on DSL landlines. It’s been ruled being against the law to still advertise it as a flat-rate. And that’s the part where I’m with you Cody (just listening to “let’s talk iOS” and pausing it to write this 😉 ) Because there have been talks that big paying companys like google, Microsoft or Sony could be paying t-mobile so that their content would still be high speed, even after you have gone over your limit. This would really give the big players an unfair advantage. And not just the data heavy content streaming services even just the small websites that wouldn’t load that fast or maybe at all since every site has gotten pretty big with all the pictures and all.

    This would bring us back to the 90s with dail-up connections 😉

    • Falk M.

      For me the deal’s clear: ZERO tolerance for anti-net-neutrality behaviour.
      I’m a Telekom customer myself and I think they are still the best carrier, coverage, speed, etc are good, although Vodafone does have some nice advantages.
      Vodafone though, haha, they are British and sell you out to GHCQ, they’ll merrily give away your data whoever requests it.

      Any E-network carrier is not worth mentioning when you’re a frequent traveller like me.

      I seriously hope, as mobile internet is becoming less of the “mobile version” of the internet, but rather just another form of browsing the internet, customers and courts will push for more net-neutrality.

      I despise the Spotify deal like little else.

      PS: Heya to a fellow German 😛

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