back to article AT&T's sponsored data plan: Who, us, violating net neutrality?

AT&T is playing down concerns that its sponsored data program violates the principles of net neutrality.* The plan, in which content providers are able to foot the bill for wireless broadband access to their services, has been advertised by the company as a benefit for customers who will be able to access premium services …


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  1. TRT Silver badge


    Of course, we get similar here too. e.g. mobile operator landing sites, allowing Virgin (and other paying network's) customers to Virgin installed networks, and access to just travel info for other customers. I have no problem with that per se as it's kind of logical that Virgin and TfL have to have an agreement with each other and they stump up the readies and the safety training/certification etc for it but when you allow commercial retailers to do it in the way suggested... well I can see where smaller and startup can lose out. But e.g. NHS direct could benefit, other information agencies with no commercial agenda - but if you got to, say, BBC for free news, does that unfairly prejudice a news provider who gains revenue from advertising?


  2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

    Not sure

    I'm not sure about this. As always, the devil is in the details, but it seems to me to be similar to 0800 (freephone/toll free) phone numbers. Companies are allowed to do that, effectively paying for a customer to call them. So why should they not be allowed to pay for a customer to access their website?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Not sure

      Last I checked, most cell phone plans treat any number within the country the same: including "toll-free" numbers because it's the AIRTIME you're paying for: not the call. Any US cellco worth its salt treats a call to Seattle the same a a call to Miami in terms of costs and so on, so "toll-free" numbers are rather moot here: a number is a number is a number for a cell phone.

      1. Vector

        Re: Not sure

        "Last I checked, most cell phone plans treat any number within the country the same: including "toll-free" numbers because it's the AIRTIME you're paying for"

        That's certainly true today, but in olden times, we had this thing called a "long distance" bill where you had to pay to call outside your local calling area. For decades, the toll-free number was a way for companies to absorb those costs for their customers to intice them to call.

        This sounds like the same thing for the internet with one large caveat: AFAIK it only pays the bandwidth for AT&T subscribers unlike toll-free numbers which covered all telephone customers regardless of their service provider. Fix that and I see no effective difference from toll-free service.

  3. Alan Denman

    How the Web was won.

    This is the path to full control of the internet.

    Its the is the end of the World Wide Web.

    Few will venture outside the walled garden once it costs.

  4. rh587 Bronze badge

    Unless they use it as an excuse to lower data caps, I don't see it as making a huge difference, indeed I suspect uptake will be low from content providers.

    So Google+ offers free access? Big deal. Facebook uses, what, kB updating people's witterings to my local app? Offering me a few free MB over a month isn't going to make me move to G+.

    Pretty much the only place I see this being relevant is video - competitor to YouTube suddenly offers all-you-can-eat HD video that won't touch your data cap? Yes please. Or conversely YT kills off everyone else by paying their data tariffs for 12 months, but I suspect they might fall foul of Anti-Trust then, using their (Google's) size for 12 months to kill the competition. The economics of that are horrible because you're paying for a lot of data per user. You want max-MB per user, but conversely that means you're not offering individual users very much - so your offering needs to be compelling. Just as it is now.

    Which is not to say I support it, but I think it's going to die a death from it's own economics - I can't see any news providers or the likes of Twitter or facebook (or their competitors) seeing it as worth their while spending money trying to lure you in with a relatively small amount of free data. There are better ways to increase traffic, which usually involves spending that money on content.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the end game

      It is bound to look rosy at the beginning, until they then ramp up fees for entry and expand partnerships/censorship.

      A T & T may end up with full control of what we see.

  5. Daemon-Byte

    But if google were to do a deal where they paid you directly to cover your data allowance if you use a google app to track it does that break it? If not why is this any different? And how does it differ to Amazon's whispernet?

  6. Peter 39

    data caps

    If AT&T gets traction with this, expect them to roll out data caps on wired connections too. I think they already exist in a few places but not many and the cap is quite high. But that would soon change if they see there's money to be made.

  7. tempemeaty

    I'll just leave this here...

  8. chris lively

    I'm conflicted about what they should do. I do NOT like the idea of having companies like FB and Google to pay for my data transfer. After all, it could get murky really quickly about what rights I give up as my information goes across lines they pay for. Nevermind that it easily raises the bar for new competitors entering the market.

    OTOH, a few apps are notorious about the amount of data they transfer to the device. As a programmer I know that a lot of this boils down to lousy coding. The net effect is that a lot of bandwidth is simply wasted, and AT&T knows this.

    So, I'd love for AT&T to put out much faster towers with bigger pipes, but I also know that every single time things get faster, programmers find a way to waste that speed through lousy coding; so it's a never win situation. Caps on the consumer limits the problem, but this doesn't necessarily filter back to the offending companies as issues they need to solve.

    So, if you are AT&T, how do you fix this?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Some apps are UNAVOIDABLY data-heavy due to the type of data they do. Media-heavy apps like Pandora, YouTube, and Skype will always be towards the top of the list simply because it takes serious data to pump sound and video.

    2. scarshapedstar

      Fix what? The "data shortage" is a hoax; the only thing they're "fixing" is that people use data more than voice and text and thus they need to find a new way to print money - first they capped the subscribers, now they're gonna shake down content providers.

      Offering unlimited data to certain sites is about as naked an admission they could possibly make that their infrastructure is more than capable of dealing with it.

  9. Fred Goldstein

    This is very much like 800 service, where the cost of the connection is paid by the recipient. AT&T says it's non-exclusive, so what's wrong with that? Besides, "network neutrality" is an imbecilic rant about an internet that never existed and couldn't work, by people who don't know what is broken (lack fo access for competitive ISPs in the US), and who want instead to guarantee spammers access that they don't otherwise have. AT&T is not the nicest bunch of folks in the world but in this case they're being entirely reasonable.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Except toll-free numbers are provider-agnostic. If you're going to do this for wireless, allow ALL providers to bill, not just AT&T.

  10. Rick Giles

    DarkNet/FreedomNet Anyone?

    And this is one of the many reason we need to go to a mesh style network sooner than later. It may resemble the old days (i.e. Usenet) until more and more people get setup, but it has to be better than worrying what info your ISP is selling to third parties or giving to the NSA about your browsing habits.

    Tux because Linus will lead this revolution.

    (and it started in Munich)

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