Long in the works and discussed among carriers, at CES today, CNet reported that AT&T is the first carrier to start what they call "Sponsored Data." It is the equivalent of an old-fashioned 1-800 toll-free number, where the business picks up the charges, so your data cap will not be affected by any data used.
Customers of all the carriers have been up in arms about losing their unlimited data plans, and most carriers have gone to share everything plans where you receive unlimited text and voice, but a set amount of data that is distributed among all devices on the plan. In the case where someone uses very little data, they may actually save a small amount each month, but for the majority of people, myself included, monthly plans have cost the subscribers more money, for much less data. T-Mobile has been shaking up the other three carriers with all of their "uncarrier" like moves.
Some businesses will welcome this new idea - customers that normally would not go to their site to "spend" their own data may now be willing to connect to their site and view the company's information. United Health Group plans to offer educational videos for their subscribers and other mobile sites will entice you to look at product announcements or educational sites may show videos of the services they offer with no data being charged to the viewer.
Not everybody is excited about the plan - Consumer advocate group Free Press has already been critical and Director Matt Wood said in a statement:
"Caps are supposed to help wireless carriers manage congestion," Free Press Policy. But if getting a big check from another company suddenly makes AT&T's congestion concerns go away, that shows data caps aren't necessary in the first place. Caps are merely another way to pad AT&T's profits."
They view it as AT&T "double-dipping" by making the customer pay their monthly data fees and will now be able to charge the businesses for data as well.
AT&T says that Sponsored Data will show startup sometime during the first quarter. Customers will see a Sponsored Data symbol letting the user know that they are not going to be charged for the data while on that site. According to a company representative:
"Sponsored content will provide a compelling option for customers who may need to keep a closer eye on their data usage month-to-month, removing a potential barrier to usage or viewership."
Let us know on our Google+ Page what you think about AT&T's move to Sponsored Data - it definitely works out well for AT&T, but what about the subscribers? We lost out as soon as unlimited data was taken away - is this their way of "throwing us a bone."