On Tuesday, AT&T announced their Sponsored Data program. It allows companies to pay for your data use when using their services; therefore, it will not count against your data limit. But many are taking issue with the program’s potential violation of the FCC’s Net neutrality rules. These people believe that it will raise costs for companies, thus costing consumers more as well. Also, it puts the control into the content creator’s hands.
AT&T executive Jim Cicconi said that “it allows any company who wishes to pay our customers’ costs for accessing that company’s content to do so. This is purely voluntary and non-exclusive. It is an offering by that company, not by AT&T.” Despite companies being able to pay for data with their services, it will not change consumers’ monthly bills. AT&T has customers on tiered plans, meaning the bill can only go up (if they go over their data limit). There is no way for them to be refunded the data that is not used.
This is likely not the last time we will here about this kind of program. Verizon has reportedly talked with ESPN about creating a similar model. ESPN’s WatchESPN and ESPN3 services garner more than 400 million minutes of viewing each month. Having ESPN covering some data use for consumers would be huge since streaming is one of the biggest contributors to consumers going over their data limit.
People also believe that AT&T is essentially choosing what consumers do on their network instead of just connecting them. Michael Weinberg of Public Knowledge says “the FCC needs to protect consumers and creators from Internet service providers (ISPs) who want to pick winners and losers online.” For now, it seems like it is the FCC’s move to make in order to protect consumers.