AT&T’s Sponsored Data Steps Into Net Neutrality Pit

Earlier this week, AT&T took the cover off a new way for customers to watch mobile content and use apps over its wireless network without impacting their monthly wireless data plans. Dubbed Sponsored Data, the carrier compared it to 1-800 numbers or free e-commerce shipping.

But it didnEUt take long for the Net Neutrality debate to surface.

Here's the deal: Sponsored Data opens up new data use options for AT&T wireless customers and mobile broadband channels to businesses that choose to participate as sponsors. Data charges resulting from eligible uses will be billed directly to the sponsoring company.

Customers will see the service offered as AT&T Sponsored Data, and the usage will appear on their monthly invoices as Sponsored Data. Sponsored Data will be delivered at the same speed and performance as any non-Sponsored Data content. AT&TEUs idea is to allow advertisers a new way to engage with customers, such as encouraging them to try a new app, promoting movie trailers and games, or pointing them toward mobile shopping sites.

The FCC Is Not Happy

"Customers love mobile content. Whether it's shopping, banking, entertainment or personal wellness, mobile content is increasingly available for customers almost anywhere and anytime," said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO, AT&T Mobility. EUAnd 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.EU

But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) isnEUt thrilled with the concept. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told the Wall Street Journal, "Make no mistake, we're ready to intervene. We want to encourage innovation, with the full capability and legal authority to intervene in those circumstances where there are untoward impacts on competition and consumers."

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