13
Jan
death-star-att-1

Netflix now covers the first 5GB of mobile app streaming for AT&T customers at no cost to you.

Beats Music: no data charge, no worries - only on AT&T.

Amazon Prime Members now get free Instant Video streaming on AT&T.

When put in the right light - that is, the light AT&T wants you to see it in - the company's new "Sponsored Data" program doesn't sound all that bad. In fact, it actually sounds pretty good, in theory. Free Instant Video streaming over your AT&T connection? Guess I'm renewing that Amazon Prime membership. 5GB of Netflix a month? Well, no reason to cancel my subscription just yet. Beats Music with no data impact? Maybe I'll look into it, after all.

These are, of course, just hypotheticals. But when consumers start expressing these thoughts, companies start to listen. In a world increasingly powered by all-you-can-eat media services, whether music, movies, or television, the cost of getting your entertainment fix on the go can become prohibitive pretty quickly. Even figuring out the amount of data you'll use during these activities can be daunting - a movie streamed over Netflix will have wildly different data usage depending on video quality, and the Netflix app has no way for the user to control or cap that quality. At the least, a 2 hour film will consume around 600MB of data, but at the high end (720p on mobile), it could be 2GB or more. For users with tiered data plans on carriers like Verizon or AT&T this can lead to major bill shock, something carriers have promised many times was a "thing of the past."

While Sprint and T-Mobile continue to offer unlimited data as an option to customers, there's substantial reason to believe that this is mostly because of their need to remain competitive (eg, not bleed subscribers every quarter). There's also the fact that their network operating costs are lower, because of a relative neglect of the less dense - and thus less profitable - suburban and rural markets AT&T and Verizon tend to dominate. At the dawn of the smartphone era, though, AT&T and Verizon likely experienced a much greater impact, proportionally, on their network costs in those areas. The cost of supporting smartphone users in less densely-populated regions was probably something of a surprise, and so emerged the great fiction we've all come to abhor: the "cost" of data usage.

What a fiction it is, too, from a technical standpoint. Can you possibly imagine how AT&T or Verizon could even calculate the actual cost of sending 1GB of data to a user on the network? You'd have to factor in the cost of electricity at the tower at the time of transmission, the various routing equipment, whether or not something like a small cell or repeater site was used, how many packets had to be resent because delivery failed... and that's just looking at things from a very high level. Then imagine how impossibly granular a level that usage would have to be quantified at. The cost and complexity of monitoring and calculating it would be insane.

Data caps, rather, are simply designed to do two things: curb abuse of the network at peak hours, and to ensure that the "cost" of data becomes engrained into the consciousness of consumers for continued exploitation, as though gigabytes are some kind of commodity, just as the "cost" of minutes was so used for decades. Megabytes really are just a replacement for minutes - same fiction, new arbitrary measurement.

DSC01280

The case of the missing minutes

AT&T's Sponsored Data scheme, you may be unsurprised to learn, is also a disguised telecom throwback - the toll-free number. The toll-free number was another AT&T "innovation," which launched back in 1967. Companies would pay to subscribe to a 1-800 number and then be billed, while calls to that number were completely free. Sounding familiar? With the fiction of minutes firmly laid out and exploited among consumers, AT&T moved onto businesses with the 1-800 scheme, creating a supply-demand system out of a non-existent commodity. That is quite literally what is happening now, and the similarities are downright eerie.

The stumbling block for AT&T is that unlike the telephone lines of yore, it doesn't own all the means of transmission on the web, and it never will. The web is such a complex and humungous net of connections that we have generally established as a society that it is too important and too interwoven to let companies or governments (with a few notable and largely unwanted exceptions) decide whose traffic is more important (on an arbitrary level, at least), or which traffic is preferable and which is not. This is the basic tenet of a concept we've come to call net neutrality - the idea that all of the web should be equally accessible and no part of it discriminated against regardless of your ISP, end device, or location.

The debate now raging over AT&T's sponsored data program, at its core, is more about defending the spirit of net neutrality, and not about net neutrality itself, and I think that's a distinction worth making.

Net neutrality is about augmenting, stopping, or unfairly prioritizing web traffic - changing the flow of information. For example, if Comcast one day decided to cut the bandwidth allocated to Netflix traffic in order to push consumers to its bundled VOD service, or another competing service paying for Comcast's favor, that would be a serious violation of FCC's rules on net neutrality in the US. However, if Comcast offered to give Netflix's traffic a boost over normal, baseline QoS web traffic in exchange for a fee, those are uncharted waters - subject to the interpretation of the FCC's Open Internet Order.

google-datacenter-tech-11

As far as I know, this is The Internet

In a perfect world, Comcast and every other ISP would just manage a dumb pipe - everyone could use it for whatever and however much they wanted, and Comcast's job would only be to make sure the pipe flows smoothly and fairly for everyone.

In reality, things are much more complicated. The US lacks any enacted law regarding net neutrality (something that, unfortunately, is widely misunderstood), and while the concept is partly embraced by the current president's administration and the FCC, that all can change with a single election. The FCC's power to enforce its own net neutrality principles remains murky at best, too, and so something of a standoff has emerged between ISPs and net neutrality advocates.

The currently accepted state of net neutrality between the FCC, FTC, and the ISPs is therefore much weaker than true net neutrality. For example, most ISPs in the US block port 80 for home internet connections, to prevent people from hosting web servers on service designated only for personal use. And this is considered acceptable by the government. We also sell web service in speed tiers, a practice more hardline net neutrality advocates are avidly against. When it comes to wireless internet, the FCC is even more lax - most of the provisions of the Open Internet Order do not apply to wireless service providers at all. Net neutrality advocates have often rushed headlong into more nuanced issues - like AT&T's FaceTime blocking scandal - quoting the FCC's order like a set of holy commandments, though at least two federal courts have explicitly ruled that the commission has no right to enforce those rules in the first place.

The issue with AT&T's sponsored data and this current state of affairs is that it looks like it still technically isn't breaking any rules. AT&T isn't augmenting the pipes, nor is it prioritizing them, at least not (yes, that word is coming again) technically. Under AT&T's scheme, the pipe to and from the customer is always wide open. AT&T won't give any company preferential speeds, it won't de-prioritize any traffic, and it won't prevent customers from accessing any content. AT&T's hands are still as off the pipe as, say, Verizon's.

But AT&T's finger is atop the switch on a little meter at the end of that pipe, counting the bytes - turning the meter on and off based on what it sees go through. If Netflix arranges a sponsored data agreement with AT&T for 5GB a month of free streaming, AT&T will turn off the data counter for that traffic. It doesn't matter whether you agree with the practice or not - this is clearly not augmenting the way in which internet traffic flows, and so I think it's wrong to characterize this as a true net neutrality issue.

831215

I'm pretty sure this is exactly how AT&T monitors your data usage. Yep.

However, as many people rather emphatically pointed out shortly after AT&T's announcement, there is potential for abuse here. The startup crowd has come down particularly hard on AT&T's plans, claiming that smaller video, music, and other content delivery services will see growth stall when their much larger competitors start footing customers' data bills. If, for example, Netflix were to offer 5GB of free mobile streaming on AT&T per month for no extra charge, where does that leave Joe Startup and his cash-strapped outfit Flixnet? (I am not a creative man.) The argument goes further down the rabbit hole, suggesting that AT&T will start a trend, and that once that trend begins, it will be impossible to halt the momentum of the sponsored data Trogdor, who will go about burninating all of the startups who refuse to pay into the free data treasure hoard.

The other point being made is that somehow, someway, AT&T will still need to increase profits from customers down the line. If you aren't paying for all those extra gee-bees, how's Ma Bell supposed to make a living (read: appease investors)? The inevitable answer, of course, seems to be that service will get more expensive. And nobody likes paying more for the same amount of stuff.

All in all, this just seems to point to less freedom for wireless subscribers, right?

Let's go back for a moment, though. Let me state what I mean when I say this fight is in the "spirit" of net neutrality, but not really about net neutrality itself, at least as we have it in the United States currently. The fact is, consumers have already given up a fair amount of their freedom on the web here - we pay for often [very] overpriced speed-based web service tiers, we cave to ISP bundle packages for value and convenience, get ripped off on equipment rental fees, let mobile providers charge us by the gigabyte, and most of the time all of this also involves getting locked into a multi-year contract. No, I'm not suggesting "what's one more thing on the pile really matter?" What I am saying is that when you look at the affronts to the American consumer by the broadband and wireless industries to date, the internet's few-day-long tiff with AT&T's sponsored data program won't make most people blink.

wm_DSC00931

Michael Bay just heard about sponsored data. He didn't blink, but he did walk away for no apparent reason.

Do you think Joe Guy on the street cares about the net neutrality issues and anticompetitive implications of sponsored data? I'm pretty sure he'd be stoked to get a few hours of Netflix for free on his phone every month, or all the Pandora he could listen to without running up his data bill. And do you honestly believe The Next Big Startup (you know, Flixnet!) is going to go down in flames unnoticed because it couldn't afford to give users any sponsored data on AT&T? How many services even use enough data that giving it to users for free would even matter in the first place? There's video content, music / audio streaming, eBooks / audiobooks, and... that's really it. Content delivery services. Many of which (though obviously not all) allow you to store content locally - eg, download it on Wi-Fi at home - for later consumption. If you think content delivery services are where the big, world-changing innovations are happening, the jobs being created, and big disruptions need to occur, more power to you and all, but I don't exactly believe you'll find a lot of enthusiastic support in that belief.

Any time the net neutrality gauntlet is thrown down, emotions run high. Advocates will fling volatile, worst-case-scenario accusations, while the corporations causing all the fuss typically respond with the same dismissive and patronizing "invisible hand laissez faire let-the-market-innovate" form letter that they do to every discussion involving regulation. It's not productive behavior - from either side.

I'm not here to argue that AT&T's sponsored data program is inherently a good thing for consumers. And I'm not here to argue it's inherently a bad thing, either. To claim either is to claim to know the future. Certainly, we can infer, we can hypothesize, we can educated-guessisize, but all I see right now is "this is the worst that could happen, so we should all immediately act like that's what will happen." What's the best that could happen? Someone gets some no-data-charge Netflix streaming, or some free Pandora?

If the behavior truly does become anticompetitive, the FCC has said it's ready to step in. And if it does reach that point, hey, I guess the naysayers were right, we couldn't trust AT&T to not screw it up. And if it never really ends up being a big deal, and some people on AT&T watch some videos and listen to some music without impacting their data cap and the world keeps on turning? Call me crazy, but I think net neutrality will live through that, and go on to fight bigger, better battles.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • stedel

    This only sounds good if we are willing to accept tiered data plans. I know I am not. We should be fighting to get back unlimited plans! Not bending over while they rape us and then thanking them for the one or two times they use lube and/or a condom.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I agree that tiered data is far from ideal (because as a metric, it's totally arbitrary), but again, it's also not the tyranny many people make it out to be. It's give and take. Would unlimited be nice? Yes. How many times a year do I actually burn through my 3GB monthly cap regardless? Once, maybe. Knowing that tiered data does reduce network congestion is also something I kind of appreciate.

      If every carrier in the US was set up tiered, I might be a little more flustered about it, but Sprint and T-Mobile offer low-cost unlimited options, and prepaids like Straight Talk and NET10 are even cheaper alternatives.

      No one *needs* Verizon LTE service and a high-end smartphone. Anyone is free to go buy a $99 Moto G and pay for Verizon prepaid, or a $180 standard G and take it anywhere else. There aren't a lack of options on the market, there are just people who kind of like to gripe that, if they want the best network performance, they have to pay based on what they use.

      I can understand the complaints against tiered data, but in this case, you really do speak with your wallet - go elsewhere if you don't like what you're getting, because there definitely are a variety of options out there. If tiered data was that unpopular and hated by consumers, Verizon and AT&T wouldn't be making money hand over fist.

      • Gabernasher

        How many people actively avoid using data to avoid reaching that cap? I know I do.

        • Chris

          I don't, i use my data non-stop, it's faster everywhere except on my home wifi. I'm out and about most of the day, every day. I've gone over my 3gbs once in the past 2 years.

          • Manute

            3GB's must be nice that would be $120+tax in my country. I have to stick with 1GB.

          • Sqube

            Just because you're "out and about" doesn't mean you're in a position to be constantly using data. For example, I take public transportation to and from work.

            Imagine how much data I could go through if I streamed an episode of something each way.

          • Chris

            See, I am always using data, I stream pandora to and from work, and while i'm shopping, at the gym, ect. On top of that I spend a lot of my day at work surfing the web on my phone because I have a job where i only have to work when i'm needed. I don't understand how people can sit and watch movies and tv on their phones though, the most video content i use my phone for would be a little youtube here and there.

          • Sqube

            Browsing the web and listening to music aren't nearly as data-intensive as playing video.

            And well... my commute is about 45 minutes. That's a perfect amount of time to watch an episode of just about anything.

          • Todd

            And times like that is the reason I have over 35 full length movies on my phone. It's also the very reason it's pissing me off to no end that alot of these models lately are ditching the sd card slot.

          • Chris

            So here's an idea, invest in a digital media collection. If you really find it that important to be able to watch tv on the go then you shouldn't be streaming it in the first place. I wouldn't use all of my data watching videos anyways. Unlimited data is never coming back, not until they introduce new tech that will allow such a thing without bogging down the networks. There will always be at least one device with an sd card slot though.

      • Brian

        Do you have a job that requires you to travel or be away from wifi for periods of time? Although wifi is readily available many people don't have jobs where WiFi is constantly available. I switched to tmobile from Verizon for specifically the unlimited plans because f that I will not allow a company to dictate how I can use the device and internet I pay for which is more than home WiFi. I can easily past 3gb in a month just from streaming music, netfkox, YouTube etc.

        Another point is this misconception that tiered data pricing reduces network congestion which until there has been some proof of this its not a true statement. It hasn't helped Verizon at all. Its not one to one and High peak demand predictable along with carriers with holding information. I mean if network congestion is the problem why wouldn't they release an update with proof that data tiers are helping alleviate It? I won't take the carriers word for it just so they can charge users more.

        • Matthew Fry

          Yeah. The only good argument for tiered data lowering congestion is because they are making you afraid to use your data but considering you could use all 3GB of it during peak hours, how did it really help? Throttling on the other hand... that's a pretty easy argument to make.

      • Lexster

        Are you kidding me? First of all, just because YOU don't go over 3GB a month, doesn't mean lots of other people don't. Secondly...speak with your wallet? You really think people are with Verizon and AT&T because they WANT to be? Most HAVE not choice because it is literally the only service that works in their area. That's not a choice. That's like saying "Oh, you don't like Time Warner internet? Well, go get that local ISP dial-up service .They're slow, yeah, but they have no data caps!"

        • Matthew Fry

          What local ISP? There's only 2 gargantuan corporations to choose from.

          • Lexster

            In general you're correct, but there are still small ISPs available in certain places. Hell, AOL still technically offers dial-up internet if you want it.

      • James

        While I agree with you in that there are many choices for data, the problem I have is with how sponsored data ties into tiered data and data caps. Wasn't the reason behind capping data plans to reduce the load strain on a network? And isn't it miraculous that issue seems to disappear when internet companies open up their wallets to AT&T? Sponsored data is essentially the same thing as an unlimited data plan, but only to the companies who pony up the dough. Sure, United Health Group (or whatever the company who's already signed up is called), probably won't bog down the network with the influx of users taking advantage of the "free" data offered by them. But what happens if Netflix or Pandora strikes a deal? One of two things will happen: 1) a strain on the network will occur from millions of subscribers trying to stream videos or music at the same time, in which case AT&T was right in capping data, but will probably be fine with the load strain since they're still getting paid from the company AND still charging customers now receiving slower data speeds; or 2) the AT&T network will be able to handle the load just fine, proving there was never any reason to cap data plans in the first place and they were just making up some lame excuse to nickel-and-dime their customers. Truthfully I believe the second scenario is probably more the case.
        My other big issue with sponsored data, which has nothing to do with data capping, is that eventually consumers will be paying for this "free" data. I'll use the fictional example of Flixnet which has both free and premium content. They strike a deal with AT&T and all of a sudden the $3.99 price tag attached to that premium content becomes $4.99 in order to cover that "free" data. This hurts EVERYONE especially non-AT&T subscribers, and people who have unlimited data plans. They are the ones picking up the tab so that AT&T customers don't have to cut into their data plans.

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      Don't fight. Switch. T-Mobile still offers unlimited data.

      And, in defiance of the author's position, it is a SUPERIOR network experience to AT&T. LTE-10 and HSPA+42 are no small potatoes.

  • Deamos

    If this was the only thing, no it would not be so bad. Except, that is not true.

    What this shows is that data caps were not for congestion. If we don't fight back against these things now, when will we fight? Maybe when we see network throttling against "non-peering sites"? Or perhaps we will wait to fight back when we actually have to pay money to go to those same "non-peering sites"

  • William

    1. Create artificial restrictions
    2. Profit off these restrictions
    3. Create mechanism around artificial restrictions
    4. Profit off mechanism around artificial restrictions.

    Author is right it makes perfect sense!

    • ATT

      Sorry that we are trying to make money. I forgot, we and YOU are all charities, helping the poor...

      • Lexster

        Oh, I know...all those hundreds of millions of dollars you rake in JUST AREN'T ENOUGH. I feel so bad for you...

      • simp1istic

        They're our (the public's) airwaves we let these companies use.

      • NoBigGovDuh

        Most people have an issue with using artificial restrictions to make profit. It is the sign of a monopoly.

        • petrochemicals

          What AT&T are doing is the exact definition of racketeering.

          "A racket is a service that is fraudulently offered to solve a problem, such as for a problem that does not actually exist, will not be affected, or would not otherwise exist. " - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racket_(crime)

  • Grayson Carr

    Wait, is the 5GB of Netflix sponsored data thing real and live? Or was that just a hypothetical or something planned for the future? Can I go and stream 5GB of movies with the Netflix app right now and that not count towards my 6GB of shared data with AT&T? Maybe I'll have to try streaming a movie over LTE tonight to test if so.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Hypothetical.

      • Grayson Carr

        Ah, crap. In the short term, I think offers like that hypothetical would be awesome, but in the long term, I can see it getting out of hand and really making things wacky and messed up.

  • Stikman72

    I didn't see the Sponsored Post line anywhere?

    Further, this attitude we as consumers have of, "Well I know I can't do anything about it so I'm glad (insert massive company here) is only screwing me this bad.  After all, it could be worse." is exactly why AT&T will get away with this.

    If +David Ruddock as a tech writer can't see this for what it is and call things how they are, "Jo Guy on the street" truly has no chance.

    • Mike Harris

      First of all, who said it was a sponsored post? Who's sponsoring it, android Police? It's an editorial, just like its label says.

      Second of all, if that conclusion that you've drawn from this editorial is that it's no big deal and that we should all learn to live with it, you need to go back and read it again (or at least read it in its entirety before submitting a comment).

  • Brian Rowe

    I see the point your trying to make but in the end we will still be paying for the data. Netflix, Amazon, hulu, and whoever else will just pass that cost back on to the consumer. So that $9.99 a month Netflix cost will now be $10.99 across the board to pay for the " Sponsored Data" cost they now pay. It's a typical corporate scam to get more revenue per user but appear to be on your side.

    • Matthew

      Even if Netflix or my music subscription went up by $1, I'd still rather pay the extra $1 and reduce my rate plan by $40.

      • Nathan Blume

        That is because all of the Netflix subscribers who are not AT&T customers will subsidize that cost for you. Their bill will also go up $1, but they will get nothing in return. They will foot the bill for you.

        • Matthew

          You're jumping to a worst-case conclusion. What will most likely happen is you'll see a mobile subscription plan like Spotify does with their premium plan.

      • KlausWillSeeYouNow

        That's a really short-sighted preference.

        • Matthew

          I'd like to understand how it's short-sighted. Legitimate question... I would like to know what I'm missing because I've seen absolutely no concrete data to make me have a different opinion (i.e. not just naysayer/conspiracy theorists comments).

          • KlausWillSeeYouNow

            Well, unless I misunderstood you, what you just said is that you'd rather let AT&T decide what services you should be allowed to use without limit. This stifles competition, as there are obvious implications associated with having companies pay AT&T for this privilege. While you may be able to artificially shrink your bill, in the long run you are less likely to explore and/or utilize competing services to Netflix, since their execution would use too much data. As mentioned before, there is the issue of subsidization too. But more importantly, carriers claim that the data limits allow the network to remain robust and avoid overrtaxing. Well, if that were the case, the sponsored-data idea wouldn't even be discussed. Even though their usage is sponsored, these services still consume a massive amount of bandwidth. There's no difference between Hulu and Netflix if they both utilize the same amount of data; it's wrong of AT&T to claim there is and for that reason they should retain the right to sell the way their network can be used. Let innovation thrive.

          • Brian Rowe

            Exactly! That was the BS for the damn caps in the first place was network congestion.

          • Matthew

            Thank you for the well thought out response. Seriously, I do appreciate the time you took in your response. While I don't agree entirely, you have some good points.

            It's not that I would rather let AT&T decide what services I am allowed to use without limit because I will use whatever service is best. However, if I happen to get free data for a service I do use, I love the idea because I can reduce my data plan. If I am using an existing service that doesn't get sponsored data, I'm not too disappointed about because it's business as usual.

            I never bought the "overtaxing the network" argument either. But on the flipside, as networks continue to improve through expansion or offloading from one type to the next (LTE, for example, has much more capacity than older networks), this becomes less and less of an issue.

            Again, thank you for the kind and well-thought out response. Much respect to you!

          • KlausWillSeeYouNow

            I can see your point completely. I never meant to be disrespectful or condescending; I certainly hope I didn't come across that way.

            Much respect to you as well, sir. You strike me as an extremely courteous and genuine individual. You're probably the most polite person I've ever met on the 'net! :-D

            My only desire is to defend the rights of individuals to use a service in a way that benefits the consumer. As an ex-AT&T customer of 2 years, I am very wary of the Deathstar's proposals - I fear they have evolved into a monopolizing, domineering force that curtails innovation and places the consumer second. However, my objections are entirely directed at them; not their fine customers. While temporarily beneficial, I fear this type of proposal ultimately has the potential to reduce consumers' incentive to switch to a plan with unlimited data; which prioritizes everyone equally and spurs innovation and competition while discriminating against no service. With unlimited data, you are free to use it however you decide, not how your carrier does! :-)

            Again, thanks for your courtesy and engagement. I thoroughly enjoyed our dialogue of ideas. I genuinely respect you and appreciate your ideas! :-D

          • Matthew

            You were never disrespectful or condescending, and I am very appreciative of that. It's rare to have a good and respectful conversation on the internet. In fact, I was just laughing to myself because we proved it's possible ;)

            I must add the disclaimer I'm an analyst for AT&T. From the inside, if it's any value, I can say that our primary focus these days is the customer.

            Some background on this is that I worked for AT&T from 2000-2006 and left not long after the Cingular takeover. AT&T had lost it's way and I didn't want any part of it anymore. The following several years were dark days for the company and I, like you, was very dissatisfied and did not trust the company had the customer's best interests at heart. I left AT&T as an employee and a customer for a couple years. I still had several friends at AT&T so I kept tabs on the company. I ended up coming back last year because it seemed the company has turned around pretty well. Plus, I wanted a shorter commute! :)

            I'm quite happy with the direction AT&T is going now. The network has vastly improved and the initiatives we are taking on to create an effortless customer experience and being the best at basics has been very inspiring. There is hope, and I'm proud to be a part of the ship that is turning the right direction. This is personal opinion and not a sponsored post :)

            Anyway, have a good day. Hope to run into you again!

          • KlausWillSeeYouNow

            I cordially invite you to join the T-Force. :-) T-Mobile could use your talent! :-D We're changing wireless, be a part of it! ;-)

          • Matthew

            Well, thank you! I just couldn't do it :)

            That commute would kill me!

    • Cory_S

      I'm more concerned that it will remove any initiative for AT&T to lower their data plans to meet competition. Fast forward 5 years everyone is doing sponsored data and the typical bucket of un-sponsored data is 1GB at 50 bucks.

      • MustWarnOthers

        This is exactly what I was discussing with someone earlier. If AT&T or any carrier is able to convince customers that what they're paying is perfectly fine, using sponsored data as a means to rationalize the gouging, it will NEVER get better.

  • Cherokee4Life

    This is a really good insightful article. I like your take on it sir... well played.

  • http://mrmcpowned.com mrmcpowned

    David, I've grown quite fond of your editorials. There really needs to be a better way to manage the internet, and it feels like right now we're at the fulcrum of the ordeal with no hindsight as to where the tipping point will be. One can only hope, whichever way the scale tips, is in favor of the consumer.

  • S.

    This article is why AP is the worst blog on the internet. Don't spam this crap on reddit please.

    • MJ

      This comment is why you are a total troll. Don't spam this crap on reddit also please.

  • David Dudovitz

    I'll keep my Verizon unlimited till they ply it from my cold, dead hands,

    • simp1istic

      And continue to pay for device subsidies you're not allowed to use.

      • David Dudovitz

        Worth it.

        • KlausWillSeeYouNow

          Why? Verizon's network is much slower than AT&T and T-Mobile, at least where I live. And I sure hope you like CDMA-based 3G... :-P

          Other networks offer superior technology.

  • kashtrey

    Kind of off topic but I don't really understand why the telephone companies don't bring back the "roll-over" concept for data usage ( I mean I do know the answer, GREED). I'd prefer unlimited (which I luckily still have on VZW) but the roll-over concept isn't that bad of a compromise that would alleviate some of the potential for bill shock if I happened to have a very high usage month.

    • Cory_S

      Yeah, I never used that for minutes, but it be great for data. I typically dont us more than 3GB, but every now and then I use 10.

    • simp1istic

      Because it won't make them more money....?

  • jeffrey beck

    The homestarrunner reference of Trogdor made my day!

  • Fifth313ment

    I don't like the fact that they are watching me and what I view. They should have no right to view my data. VPN's are the only solution but they are slow and expensive.

    5th

    • Cory_S

      I pay monthly for an Amazon EC2 instance I tunnel all my data through. No, it's not enemy of the NSA level privacy, but it's very fast and semi inexpensive (and the first year is free)

  • MeCampbell30

    Bravo! I think you shied away from doing the deep economic analysis but you certainly offered a good counterpoint to the totally off-base Verge article.

  • Joseph Cascio

    If you haven't already, you should see the comments on TB's post. Me and another reader have a good back and forth. http://www.technobuffalo.com/2014/01/10/att-sponsored-data-plan-doesnt-violate-fcc-rules/#comment-1195602968

  • faceless128

    aren't you supposed to start these types of posts off with "SPONSORED:"

  • Quinton

    While I appreciate the counter-point here, I think that continuing to take abuse from wireless carriers up the tailpipe is bad. If enough nerds like myself complain on the internet, Joe Guy will start to hear about it.

    He may not understand why AT&T is the devil, but he knows that's the case. Maybe that'll get him to look at T-Mobile or Sprint (both of which have cheaper plans), and he'll switch. Maybe Joe Guy is concerned with how others perceive him, and the negative stigma AT&T has (rightfully) earned will convince him that he shouldn't be a subscriber.

    We can't keep taking this crap lying down just because your average non-techie doesn't care about it. This new sponsored data plan is just a step in the wrong direction for AT&T, and they are likely planning on climbing a staircase.

    If you think you can trust AT&T not to abuse a system like this, not to leverage offers to major data hogs (like Netflix) against other carriers in an anti-competitive nature, then I've got a magical bridge to Narnia to sell you. :-)

    I do appreciate the non-emotional and analytical post you've made, but I couldn't disagree with your assessment more. Let's stop letting ourselves get screwed. Let's make some noise--enough so everyone hears it. For the love of all things holy and sacred, let's stop shrugging our shoulders and saying, "There aren't enough of us that care to make a difference."

  • Randroid

    For the record, I enjoyed the reference to Trogdor the burninator. That is all.

  • Luis

    "it will be impossible to halt the momentum of the sponsored data Trogdor, who will go about burninating all of the startups who refuse to pay into the free data treasure hoard."

    This made me laugh! ohh the good ol days.

  • FrillArtist

    David Ruddock, the AT&T shill. That monthly payola must be a hefty sum.

  • jamesfuston

    Tech news and Homestar Runner references. This morning is off on the right foot. Thanks, David!

  • Skitshin

    Minutes and long distance weren't unlimited commodities in 1967. There were a limited number of calls that could be placed at a single time on trunk lines between cities. And the more cities you had to hop through the more trunk lines you used up. It's a pretty decent analogy to transfer and bandwidth today, which also aren't unlimited commodities, particularly on wireless networks.

    • Quinton

      Yeah, but bandwidth limitations aren't nearly as severe as the carriers would have us believe.

  • mgamerz

    This reads exactly like a sponsored post that tries to act like a normal article. Joe Schmo on the street might not care, BUT he should care. AT&T is trying to screw people over (customers or content providers) and make more money, which the cost will always go to the consumer. It also lets big content providers shut down startups who have large data requirements. I don't see how this is good for anyone.

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      It's good for AT&T, and that's about it.

  • guido

    ATT took the first step, Verizon took the second, here's the third:

    A federal appeals court struck down key parts of the FCC's net neutrality rules, dealing a blow to the commission as it seeks to regulate more of the broadband arena. The ruling comes as wireless carriers have started to experiment with new business models for paying for mobile data and content.

    • Quinton

      Yup, thank the lobbyists.

  • Guest123

    American's you are about to be bent over by wireless carriers now that the net neutrality has been struck down, and don't expect the puppet at the FCC to really care, other than lip service.

    Better move to a T-Mobile covered area and start paying for their truly unlimited plan to send a message or grab that jar of Vaseline, cause you gonna need it.

  • Go Kart Mozart

    If you enter an agreement with an ISP for a certain bandwidth - even if it's "up to" the bandwidth - the ISP cannot turn around and sabotage that bandwidth potential by selling it to another entity. This is what is effectively taking place when they prioritize another connection. They are trying to sell to someone else slices of the pizza you just paid for.

  • Manute
  • NoBigGovDuh

    They obviously do not need any more spectrum if they have enough to create special pipes for paid content.

    The court today basically told the FCC that they need to be considered common carriers. We will end up with another bell phone situation otherwise.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    First things first: Vote with your wallet