AT&T Explores Giving Away Free Wireless Data If Users 'Interact' With Brand Partners

from the well-look-at-that dept

For a few years now AT&T has taken heat for its "Sponsored Data" program, which lets certain companies pay AT&T an extra fee to let consumers access their content without it impacting their wireless data usage allotment. Critics have repeatedly charged that the program immediately creates an uneven playing field for small companies, independent and non-profits, who may not be able to afford the toll. While it's clear the plan violates net neutrality, consumers have been fortunate in that corporate interest in the idea so far appears to be minimal.

In an interesting twist, AT&T appears to now be cooking up a new program called "Data Perks" that gives consumers free, additional wireless data should they "interact" with AT&T partner brands in a specific fashion. Leaked information on the program suggests it's being run by AT&T's Sponsored Data partner Aquto, who explains AT&T's new project as such:
"Aquto CEO Susie Riley told VentureBeat that to many brands it’s a lead generation campaign. Subscribers are rewarded with data when they sign up for services, learn about new products, discover new apps, or click through and purchase something at a brand’s e-commerce site. If for example, an AT&T customer bought a DVD from a participating brand, they might be awarded with a gigabyte of data that they could use to browse any site, anywhere on the web, Riley said. Subscribers accumulate their data credits in their Data Perks account, then transfer the data into their AT&T wireless account when they want."
So far that sounds more neutrality friendly than the company's Sponsored Data effort, as it's opt in and doesn't tilt the mobile Internet playing field in any obvious fashion. Of course this is AT&T -- the same company that's been busted time and time again for business models that trample neutrality and consumer rights -- so we'll have to see if there's any nasty caveats when the program launches next Tuesday. AT&T might be engaging in semantics here (exempting some content from the cap, versus giving away "free" data if users "interact" with a brand). With the FCC's new net neutrality rules taking effect this week (you know, the ones AT&T is suing twice to overturn), it seems possible that AT&T would tread carefully

Maybe.

While the FCC's new neutrality rules don't cover data caps and zero rating specifically, when they take effect on Friday there is at least a complaint mechanism for those who find a specific business model obviously anti-competitive. As such, ISPs can still violate neutrality, but as noted previously, they just have to be extra-clever about it, dressing it up as an innovative business model and a great boon for consumers (see T-Mobile's Music Freedom). We'll see next week if AT&T's actually developing a sound business model for once -- or if it's just being extra clever.
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Filed Under: advertisements, brands, interact, net neutrality, sponsored data
Companies: at&t


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 2:57pm

    Anything to wear down at the idea of Net Neutrality - even with the guise of 'free' data to end users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 3:03pm

    Arbitrary caps

    Isn't this the telco further monetizing an artificial scarcity they created?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 3:16pm

    So companies can pay my ISP for advertising. Then if I view that advertising I can get free data. I'm sorry but that in and of itself is fine as long as I can refuse and pay my own way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2015 @ 5:43pm

    Can we just get the FCC to declare the arbitrary data caps a violation already?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    James of the East, 15 Jun 2015 @ 10:14pm

    If we had decent competition in the wireless space in this country, this would be a perfectly valid differentiating point for them. As it stands, I agree with it just being further monetization of an artificial scarcity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Karl Bode (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 5:33am

    Re: Arbitrary caps

    You are correct sir.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Karl Bode (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 5:34am

    Re:

    I'd agree. But this being AT&T, one can help wonder what the caveat is. They've spent the better part of fifteen years trying to develop a way to double (and in some cases even triple) dip broadband connectivity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Karl Bode (profile), 16 Jun 2015 @ 5:34am

    Re:

    Afraid that won't be happening. They've given every indication so far they have no real intention of policing usage caps or zero rated apps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Julian, 15 Sep 2016 @ 12:50pm

    Free Data

    I don't see what the big deal is. Data should be free for everyone. Why cap it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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