AT&T stirs up controversy with ‘Sponsored Data’ plan

AT&T stirs up controversy with ‘Sponsored Data’ plan
AT&T stirs up controversy with ‘Sponsored Data’ plan

AT&T Sponsored Data Plan

Wouldn’t it be nice if your data wasn’t gobbled up by the megabyte every time you streamed videos or used certain apps on your mobile device?

If you’re one of those who just can’t get enough data, then you might be pleased to know that AT&T is doing just with its announcement of Sponsored Data at CES 2014.

Sponsored Data is a way for brands to pay for the data usage, lifting some of the burden off  consumers. Not all videos on the web come for free. Movies or TV series can be bought on iTunes, but aside from paying for the content, when you want to stream it, it eats up your data. This adds quite a bit to the cost of viewing content on your device. But the idea of Sponsored Data is that brands will take care of the streaming part, so consumers won’t have to.

“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,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility.

“That’s what makes this a win-win for customers and businesses.”

Sponsored data is a great way for brands to promote things. It’ll entice more people to view their content on mobile devices without having to worry about using up their monthly allotted data or going over their plan.

This is great news for consumers as it means they can enjoy more content on the go, but what about the industry itself?

Some were quick to point out that this will just give an edge to already established companies such as Google and Apple, leaving smaller companies in the dust, unable to compete.

Kevin Fitchard of GigaOm pointed out that this could upset the balance of the mobile internet.  He wrote that one of the most obvious consequences is that such an offering will favor one provider’s content over another.  If consumers learn that they can access certain online content without their data allowance being affected, they will naturally gravitate towards that provider.

Not only that, it gives power back to network carriers.  It allows them to dictate what consumers want. If Google or Apple offers Sponsored Streaming for their movies to AT&T customers, then subscribers from other competitors will surely jump ship.

Neutrality group Public Knowledge has already came out in opposition to AT&T’s Sponsored Data scheme, likening it to ESPN’s negotiations with another carrier to exempt its content from data capping.

“The company that connects you to the internet should not be in a position to control what you do on the internet,” Public Knowledge Acting Co-President Michael Weinberg stated.

He added that “AT&T’s plan erects a massive barrier in front of anyone hoping to be the next big thing online.”