AT&T Defends Their New “Sponsored Data” Plan Against Violations Of FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules

January 10, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

It was only four days ago that AT&T announced their newest”idea” to help consumers use less of their own personal data and let the businesses at the website pick up that expense – much like the old “800” phone numbers – and already groups are accusing AT&T of violating the FCC Net neutrality rules. Why is it that T-Mobile can change the rules whenever they want and everybody praises them, but as soon as AT&T tries to make things easier on our data plans, everybody shouts, “foul!” Is it because AT&T is such a bully that the digital rights activists are running to the FCC and now AT&T must defend themselves…or is it because AT&T has something up its corporate cloak of invisibility?

According to CNet, on one hand we have the activist groups crying foul – that even though AT&T will not charge the consumers for their data usage while on participating websites, the overall cost of “doing business” with those participating will go up for consumers as the businesses pass on the data cost to the users. Michael Weinberg, acting co-president of Public Knowledge, said in a statement:

“The FCC needs to protect consumers and creators from Internet service providers (ISPs) who want to pick winners and losers online.  The company that connects you to the Internet should not be in a position to control what you do on the Internet. AT&T’s announcement positions itself to do just that.”

However, on the other hand, we have AT&T defending their actions and Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president of External and Legislative Affairs said in a statement:

“We are completely confident this offering complies with the FCC’s Net neutrality rules, which our company supports.  AT&T’s sponsored data service is aimed solely at benefiting our customers.  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.”

So far, the FCC has been quiet on the topic, and most insiders do not think there will be any action taken by the FCC. Paul Gallant an equities analyst for Guggenheim Securities claims that the rules established for Net neutrality were fairly “lenient” toward the wireless companies and the rules only ban a few specific actions, and what AT&T is proposing does not fall under those guidelines.  He also claims that AT&T’s argument that the customers will benefit will help persuade the FCC in their favor.

Please let us know how you feel on our Google+ Page – does this seem like a good thing to you…an act of “kindness” on the part of AT&T toward its users, or just another way for AT&T to make more money? We would love to hear what you think about the topic.