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Sprint is the Latest Carrier to Circumvent Net Neutrality

August 1, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Just when the talk of Network Neutrality was heating up, leave it to the perpetrators to find another way to attack their victims, in a quiet, less conspicuous way.  When it comes to Net Neutrality, you are either for ALL data being treated equally on the internet or you are in favor of ‘favoritism’ of that high-speed data in certain incidents when they favor you.  Unfortunately, the major carriers prefer that latter – they want preferential treatment, or at the very least, the ability to charge more depending on site content or by application.

In the carrier’s never-ending attempt to not have to pay for data usage, they are starting to have what we call “sponsored data.”  This forces the app or service that you are receiving to pay for the data – which is going to be passed on to the user – with the possibility of no reduction in the subscriber’s monthly plan amount…oh thou carriers you are an uncaring bitch.  AT&T was the first carrier to implement the sponsored data scheme (see diagram below) and similar announcements were made by T-Mobile, which offers unlimited music streaming from the likes of Pandora, Spotify and other apps.  This shows the willingness of carriers to give preferential treatment to those that are willing to pay for certain services.

These services, for now, are being directed at the one thing carriers know that we are not willing to give up – social media, such as Facebook.  On Wednesday, Sprint’s prepaid Virgin Mobile announced a cheap prepaid plan that allows customers to pay only $5.00 a month to have unlimited access to Facebook and other social media networks to sidestep charging them for a pricier plan that includes data.  This makes the user and data provider forming the partnership to pay them for the data and cuts Virgin Mobile (and Sprint) out of the picture.  In other words, these will be considered an ‘add-on fee’ and we all know what happens when we are forced to choose everything ¡ la carte – the price grows.  What seemed like a bargain in the beginning suddenly grows by leaps and bounds.  For instance, you can get the same deal for Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest – all for $5.00 EACH or they will bundle them into a package ‘deal.’  For a few bucks more you can add unlimited music streaming…see where this is going.

This could also be a problem for a new upstart company – would anybody be willing to even consider an unknown if they had to pay $5.00 extra a month to try them out?  The way it is now, a user could download the app and try it with their existing data plan.  Up until now, the Net Neutrality advocates have focus mostly on broadband providers, but now realize that more focus has to be given to the wireless industry.  Netflix – a vocal supporter of Net Neutrality – is having to pay Comcast, Verizon and now AT&T to insure that their subscribers get decent speeds for their streaming customers…Netflix doesn’t like it, but without that extra ‘incentive,’ it is amazing how fast the ‘pipes’ will clog up!

Virgin Mobile Custom, will be available at Wal-Mart on August 9 and will work with just three devices to begin with – the $80 ZTE Emblem, the $100 LG Pulse and the $130 LG Unify.  However, Sprint is hoping to expand its ‘Custom” plans in the near future and start collecting fees for those “most favored applications” status.

Please hit us up on our Google+ Page and let us know if you prefer to pay so much a month for data in your plan or would you rather have data removed or lowered on your main plan and buy these services ¡ la carte…as always, we would love to hear from you.

AT&T Sponsored Data Illustration