AT&T Says It Will Match Google Fiber's Speed & Pricing, But Only If You Allow AT&T To Spy On You

from the how-very-AT&T-of-you dept

To counter the PR hit from Google Fiber, AT&T has recently been proclaiming that it too is now offering 1 Gbps services under the company’s “Gigapower” brand — but pretending that Google has nothing to do with it. On the surface, it looks like AT&T is taking on Google blow for blow, and that this is a wonderful example of how competition works. And while that’s true up to a point, as we’ve discussed previously, AT&T’s offering is highly theatrical in nature. AT&T’s actually been slashing its fixed-line CAPEX each quarter, but is offering 1 Gbps speeds to a few, scattered high-end developments where fiber is already in the ground.

AT&T is then dressing this deployment up as something much larger than it actually is — something I affectionately refer to as “fiber to the press release.” Fiber to the press release not only lets a company pretend to be cutting-edge while skimping on actual infrastructure upgrades, AT&T uses these barely-existent fiber deployments as a sort of carrot on a stick for regulators, threatening to pull back on these already-skimpy investments if, say, regulators try to pass net neutrality rules or don’t approve its DirecTV merger plans.

But in the locations AT&T is deploying 1 Gbps services, it’s actually engaged in something that — in typical AT&T fashion — sets an even worse precedent. On the heels of scattered Gigapower deployments in Austin, AT&T this week announced it’s also offering symmetrical 1 Gbps speeds in portions of Kansas City. After the press release gets done insisting that AT&T “moved quickly to bring more competition to the Kansas City area” with a 1 Gbps offering for $70 a month, quadruple asterisked fine print explains that to actually get this $70 price point, you have to agree to opt-in to AT&T’s “Gigapower Internet Preferences” program:

“U-verse High Speed Internet 1Gbps: Internet speeds up to 1Gbps for $70 per month****, includes waiver of equipment, installation and activation fees, and a three year price guarantee…**** U-verse with AT&T GigaPower Premier offer is available with agreement from customer to participate in AT&T Internet Preferences. AT&T may use Web browsing information, like the search terms entered and the Web pages visited, to provide customers with relevant offers and ads tailored to their interests.”

Assuming the company’s Kansas City pricing mirrors its Austin pricing, if you choose to opt-out of this particular brand of snoopvertising, you’ll need to pay $100 a month. That’s right: even when faced with real price competition, AT&T can’t help but be AT&T — and try to charge users a $30 premium just to opt-out of a behavioral ad program. AT&T’s Internet Preferences FAQ can’t be bothered to detail the technology used, though it’s most likely deep packet inspection (you know, the kind of technology small companies like NebuAD and Phorm were absolutely destroyed for using).

AT&T’s pretty clearly not very familiar with how this whole price competition thing works, and needless to say, most sensible Kansas City and Austin users will be taking their broadband business to Google if they want to avoid AT&T being AT&T. Not that we’ll get to see this on AT&T earnings numbers; since the entire project is a bit of a show pony to begin with, the company doesn’t disclose how many Gigapower customers it serves. AT&T just wants you to believe it’s on the cutting edge — even if that cutting edge predominantly involves make believe — and forcing consumers to pay a premium for privacy.

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Companies: at&t, google

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Comments on “AT&T Says It Will Match Google Fiber's Speed & Pricing, But Only If You Allow AT&T To Spy On You”

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orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It has zero to do with Google fiber and everything to do with other Google services which is already happening anyway. Unless, of course, you opt out, and/or block stuff. Or choose not to use Google services. Being able to choose among ISPs is an entirely different ball game.

Of course it’s obvious. And I don’t see how you aren’t sure that it’s any worse. It’s also different in the manner of data gathering, ad targeting, and injection. And it occurs at your front door, not theirs.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

AT&T will be watching where you go no matter what. Google just kinda shrugs and says “We get this information elsewhere, we don’t need to packet sniff”.

Google won’t watch your porn surfing habits (Google analytics and adsense are banned on porn sites), but AT&T will.

I can (and do) block Google Analytics, can’t block AT&T packet sniffing.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s one of the reasons I block it. Verizon and Google still don’t get along (I’m starting to think they’re doing the node thing like they did with Netflix). Some times I can’t get to any Google website. Youtube, G+, even the search page just stop responding all at once and for a few hours. Everything else (even other streaming video sites) works perfectly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Google Fiber will not engage in deep packet inspection (where the content of the data packet is inspected beyond its IP, TCP, and UDP headers) or drop specific types of end-user Internet traffic except as described herein to preserve the integrity of the network and protect against negative effects of Internet threats.”

As for Google’s automated scanning of email content to serve up ads, you can opt out of ads, choose not to use Gmail, block ads, or use anti-tracking plugins.

You can opt out keeping a search history on a Google account and you can opt out of providing location information. Sure, there’s going to be some information that they will collect, but it’s nowhere near as nefarious as DPI and you have choices.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

A solution suggests itself

1. Sign up for AT&T’s surveillance package.
2. Set up VPN for all “real” traffic.
3. On a spare system that’s connected 24×7 and not connected through the VPN, run a Perl script that issues intermittent search queries comprised of terms found on 4chan forums, Twilight fanfic sites, YouPorn, and whatever site is the main one for Bronies. Oh, and Frank Zappa lyrics.
4. Smile while contemplating how confused the marketroids staring at the data analytics are going to be.

Anonymous Coward says:

“U-verse High Speed Internet 1Gbps: Internet speeds up to 1Gbps for $70 per month****, includes waiver of equipment, installation and activation fees, and a three year price guarantee…**** U-verse with AT&T GigaPower Premier offer is available with agreement from customer to participate in AT&T Internet Preferences. AT&T may use Web browsing information, like the search terms entered and the Web pages visited, to provide customers with relevant offers and ads tailored to their interests.”

They lost me at ‘U-verse’

Anonymous Coward says:

if there is an option for customers to have one or the other, the choice i would guess is for the Google service. no company should be allowed to offer it’s services or products under condition of undermining that same customers privacy and freedom. seems to me that the FCC ought to be jumping on this before AT&T jump on it for the reclassification of broadband and the possibility of law suits brought by the jealous providers

yankinwaoz (profile) says:

So what happens when AT&T forgets to honor their “no tracking” pledge? Or they start making exceptions that it becomes worthless?

In other words. They collect $30 a month, but we have no way to know that they haven’t just tracked us anyhow. You can’t sue them because they force no-suite clauses in their contract. And you can’t prove that they failed unless some AT&T whistleblower gives them up.

Dan G Difino says:

Re: Re:

Losing one’s privacy and becoming an ad-magnet might be a fair tradeoff if the internet service was totally free

NO NO, These corporations think they can sleaze out all the advertising to everyone knowing its garbage and pollution in our faces in our ears and eyes. They should be begging to pay us to tolerate certain levels of it instead of their fucked up thinking they can trash our serenity over and over and over daily. And then only the advertising we agree to. NO MORE

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