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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  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:02am

    AT&T, I liked you so much better when you were a monopoly.

    Now, you're just an asshole.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:20am

    AT&T probably has been using Deep Packet inspection devices and now wants to come clean that the have been using them. Do you really think that they are installing the devices in JUST that ONE area?

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

    • identicon
      Adam V, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      If that's the case, I'd like my (retroactive) $30/month discount, plus an updated privacy policy that says "yeah, we've been using DPI on you for a couple of years now".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      If I remember correctly, they already have this program in place for all the customers, however if you're in that price tier, you just can't opt out.

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

  • identicon
    Mike A., 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:23am

    I guess I'm not sure how this is any worse than what Google does?

    Google's an advertising company. Is it not obvious they're keeping track of your comings and goings to better target ads?

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:34am

      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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:35am

      Re:

      I think the main diff is google doesn't inject ads into content that has opted in to displaying google ads. i.e. their isp biz is seperated from adwords.

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

    • icon
      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:41am

      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.

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

      • identicon
        PRMan, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re:

        It's amazing how much faster pages load with Google Analytics blocked.

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

        • icon
          Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 12:41pm

          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.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:22am

        Re: Re:

        You can but you have to go the route of VPN. AT&T can bite me for figuring out where I go and where I surf. Nor am I interested in receiving ads from them. I want a dumb pipe, nothing more.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:42am

      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."

      https://fiber.google.com/legal/network.html

      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.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      "Is it not obvious they're keeping track of your comings and goings to better target ads?"

      Considering that Google is specifically saying that they aren't doing this sort of tracking with Google Fiber, that's not obvious at all.

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

    • identicon
      Tim Garrett, 21 Feb 2015 @ 4:50am

      Re:

      The obvious difference is that Google does it on web properties and sites it controls, while AT&T could only accomplish what they are trying to do in an increasingly HTTPS&enabled world with such nefarious tactics as automated man-in-the-middle attacks.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:24am

    What happened to their threats about holding off on fiber deployment due to the looming Title II reclassification?
    Was that just a bunch of bullshit?
    Yeah...we knew all along it was a bunch of bullshit.

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

  • identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:29am

    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 24x7 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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:33am

    "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'

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

    • identicon
      PRMan, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      They lost me at, "I already have a lifetime ban on AT&T."

      I dropped DirecTV the day they announced the merger. I've been happy with Dish, but the day my elderly father leaves my house I will be a cord cutter overnight.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:35am

    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

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 10:45am

    AT&T just wants you to believe it's on the cutting edge

    They are! Get too close, and you'll end up bleeding!

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

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:02am

    Standard deceptive marketing

    This is just another dishonest hidden fee in the vast collection of hidden fees AT&T loves so much. The honest way they could have done the same thing would be to market it as costing $100 and offer a discount if you sign up to be spied on.

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:08am

    Remind me again where Google Fiber is deployed?

    It's a big country. There are lots of profitable regions that need better service and would pay for it. The only investment is blocking a potential competitor, not increasing the customer base by investing in un-served and under-served regions.

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

    • icon
      WDS (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:41am

      Re:

      Exactly. When AT&T starts putting in 1GB service someplace Google isn't already, or announced they are going to be, then I might believe AT&T is actually interested increasing service for it's customers.

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

  • icon
    David (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 11:45am

    The best AT&T can currently give me is 3 mb. I'm supposed to believe that they will suddenly provide access at 333 time the speed. I can't wait until Google gets to Atlanta.

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

  • icon
    yankinwaoz (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 12:05pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2015 @ 3:36pm

    Losing one's privacy and becoming an ad-magnet might be a fair tradeoff if the internet service was totally free, kind of like Netzero's business model years ago. But getting a relatively small discount is hardly worth the price of selling one's soul to the Devil.

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

    • identicon
      Dan G Difino, 17 Feb 2015 @ 3:51pm

      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

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

  • identicon
    Dan G Difino, 17 Feb 2015 @ 3:44pm

    Like that TOS

    Don't like At&T either, but at least they're posting that up front in their TOS.. guessing, unlike some other sleazy corporations.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 3:54pm

      Re: Like that TOS

      I'm not actually aware of any major companies who do things that aren't allowed in their ToS, nor am I aware of any that do things they specifically say they won't do.

      Doesn't mean they don't exist, of course.

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

  • icon
    Ikin (profile), 17 Feb 2015 @ 5:21pm

    That's not on

    It's about time we all got together and started making the rules.

    I think if we had a voting system in place so EVERY single law the government passes, is no longer up to them.

    The people get to vote on everything and vote it in or out.

    The world would be a better place

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


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