Bad AT&T Ideas Are Contagious: UK's Vodafone Wants To Try 'Sponsored Data' Idea

from the ridin'-them-pipes-for-free dept

AT&T poured napalm on the network neutrality debate here in the States back in 2005, when then CEO Ed Whitacre proudly proclaimed in an interview he "wasn't going to let Google ride his pipes for free." Ed and most telco executives quite honestly believe that historically-pampered phone companies are entitled to an additional "troll toll" by content companies simply for the honor of touching the ISP network. Never mind that consumers and content companies already pay for bandwidth and (like Google) invest in infrastructure of their own, telco logic dictates that content companies get a "free ride" and must pay more. You know, because.

AT&T's attempts to double dip aren't just domestically dumb, predatory and dangerous, they seemingly have an infectious quality for overseas telcos looking for ways to make additional money for doing nothing, but who aren't gifted with AT&T's knack for truly obnoxious ideas. We've seen it in the way European telcos mimic AT&T's rhetoric in claiming content companies ride their pipes for free, and therefore really ought to pay an additional tax to the phone companies (again, you know, just because). Despite being such a bizarre, fundamentally flawed assumption, the concept carries a lot of traction in telecom circles, thanks largely to hired think tanks and PR flacks who go to great, great lengths to frame it as entirely reasonable.

Yet oddly, the "hey, give me more money for doing nothing" approach hasn't worked well, resulting in AT&T recently introducing their "sponsored data" idea. As we recently discussed, sponsored data involves certain large companies paying AT&T an extra fee to have their content not count against wireless consumer caps. While framed by AT&T as "free shipping" or a "1-800 number for data," it's simply more of the same idea, and potentially devastating for smaller companies and startups that can't afford to pay AT&T to get preferred listing in AT&T's promotional materials. AT&T's effectively imposing entirely arbitrary caps (based in no way on real-world economics or network congestion), then charging multiple times for the same bandwidth.

Not too surprisingly, AT&T's latest brain child has again had an infectious impact on overseas telcos. UK's Vodafone now says the company is interested in trying the sponsored data idea as well:
Vodafone is looking at offering sponsored data to its customers. The move would see customers agreeing to receive sponsored data on their devices in return for lower data bills. CEO Vittorio Colao revealed Vodafone's interest in sponsored dat this week. The CEO said he is closely watching US operator AT&T's recent move to allow sponsored data.
What Colao is watching for specifically is the regulator response to AT&T's sponsored data. If FCC boss and former wireless and cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler signs off on sponsored data as a form of "pricing innovation," that opens the door to the possibility that overseas regulators can be conned into thinking this is actually an innovative idea as well. It's worth noting that AT&T wanted to acquire Vodafone's wireless assets, but it's largely believed that AT&T's incredibly cozy relationship with the NSA has soured European regulators on the idea -- for now. After the European Parliament elections in May, it's very likely AT&T and Vodafone will merge to become one company, which can further help spread AT&T's bizarre and predatory logic worldwide.

Filed Under: data, sponsored data, uk, wireless
Companies: at&t, vodafone


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  1. icon
    ColinCowpat (profile), 14 Feb 2014 @ 2:54am

    Content companies would need to bill customers to pay ISPs

    In the final analysis, the consumer pays. This whole scam is a magnesium flare to divert attention away from net neutrality.

    The funny thing I head this morning was that Comcast, at the request of the FCC, had a precondition from their NBC acquisition to obey net neutrality rules until 2018. Stupid or not? Why end date anything like that. It's like telling the Taliban the date they won't be confronted with any US troops in Afghanistan. I mean, what do you expect to happen if you're given a date beyond which you can gouge customers to your hearts content?

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