AT&T's New "Sponsored Data" Feature Lets Companies Pay for Certain Services on 4G
January 6, 2014 12:45 PM
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The idea is that customers will be more likely to use a company's particular services if the company is picking up the tab
AT&T is open to having some of its customers' 4G data paid for by companies that want to promote their services.
According to a
from AT&T, the No. 2 carrier in the U.S. will offer a new service called "Sponsored Data," where companies pay for 4G data usage when their services are being used. The idea is that customers will be more likely to use their particular services if the company is picking up the tab.
When Sponsored Data is in effect, customers will see a "sponsored" icon in the status bar, and they won't have to pay a penny for data as long as it remains there.
“Customers love mobile content," said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility. "Whether it’s shopping, banking, entertainment or personal wellness, mobile content is increasingly available for customers almost anywhere and anytime. And that’s what makes this a win-win for customers and businesses – customers just look for the Sponsored Data icon and they know the data related to that particular application or video is provided as a part of their monthly service. This is an exciting new opportunity for us and, most importantly, our customers.”
AT&T said there would be no performance differences between normal 4G and Sponsored Data.
The new feature is getting a lot of attention from net neutrality groups like Public Knowledge, which says that carriers shouldn't be in control of what its customers do on the Internet. However, the lack of net neutrality rules for mobile data will allow the feature to roll out.
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RE: Seems like a way to bypass net neutrality
1/6/2014 7:49:47 PM
Net neutrality doesn't apply here. Net neutrality applies when service providers are selling "unlimited" bandwidth. The customer has already paid for the bandwidth. It's duplicitous for the service provider to then demand additional payments from the website. That creates a situation where the sender and recipient of the data have both paid for the data's bandwidth, and the service provider is being double-paid.
In the case of cellular and 4G service, you're paying per kB of data. Either the recipient pays, or the sender pays. There is no situation where both recipient and sender pay for the same data, as in the anti-net neutrality case.
Personally I don't think this will get very far. Unless they come up with some clear and easy way for the customer to know when a service has paid for the 4G bandwidth, there is no way customers will be able to keep track of it all. It may work for a few well-known sites like Netflix, but not in general. A good analogy is landline telephone service. Everyone just knows that the caller pays for the call, unless it's a toll-free number in which case the callee pays. But toll-free numbers were easily identifiable with the 1-800 prefix (and later 888 and 866). There is no such identifier for the Internet.
RE: Seems like a way to bypass net neutrality
1/8/2014 2:32:00 PM
Sure it does. You just can't see it.
I'm not the only one that has noticed this:
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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