AT&T to Shake Up Wireless Traffic With Sponsored Data

January 7th, 2014 by · 1 Comment

The OTT wars now have a fresh (but not new) battle front, as AT&T is going ahead and introducing a new service where content companies can pay for the data used by a subscriber's usage. It is an attempt to directly link the world of content to the costs of the bandwidth required to deliver it, rather than depend on the consumer's willingness to pay more.  And if nothing else, it will surely stir up the net neutrality wars anew.

The Wall Street Journal likens this to a 1-800 number but for data. It's something which has been talked about for a while, even here on Ramblings two years ago. And not just by me, check out the comments on that article, which were in many cases longer and more detailed than my own.

It will be interesting to see how AT&T's foray works out. Sure they have a few initial content providers signed up, but UnitedHealth Group, Aquto Corp, and Kony Inc aren't exactly the ones we think of as hogging all the spectrum. And does a content provider have to work out a separate 800 data plan with every provider out there?  I mean, with the PSTN you only need one 800 number with one carrier at one price, not dozens of parallel arrangements.  What a mess.  I suspect AT&T's initial proposal will have to evolve before it has a chance at acceptance, but I think it's important to have this conversation so I welcome the effort nonetheless.

How long can it be before we hear about certain large corporate entities that own both content and last mile network abusing this sort of infrastructure to favor their own content? Picking winners and losers among new apps would surely backfire, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't happen. I also suspect that before it does we will see the concept perverted or undermined or arbitraged by any number of third parties looking to turn it to their own advantage. I wonder how long it will take for android hackers to find a way to cloak non-sponsored data as sponsored data.

The world is a strange place these days. With the vast bandwidth available to us now, whether wired or wireless, the focus is always on how limited it still is and how pathetic we are as a society for not providing yet more. And while the wireless carriers complain of the burden, they also fight tooth and nail to be the one chosen to carry it.  Meanwhile so many public advocacy groups seem to loathe the corporations that actually supply the bandwidth they believe should be free but which would otherwise not exist.

It almost makes my head spin sometimes...

Categories: Government Regulations · Internet Traffic · Wireless

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