FCC will look into AT&T Sponsored Data scheme

January 9, 2014
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AT&T's recent CES announcement of a new way to help cut down on data bills was met with mixed sentiment. Taking advantage of his on-stage time at CES 2014, FCC chair Tom Wheeler assured that crowd that the commission will look into the matter and put its weight on it but only if necessary.

The Sponsored Data program that AT&T announced Monday sounds simple enough. Sponsors, such as big companies, can sign up for the program and practically shoulder the data costs that users would incur when visiting their website or using their app. AT&T subscribers would get to see such usage on their bills but would not be charge for them. This could be a way for companies to drive traffic to their websites since users will essentially be surfing that part of the Internet for free.

Of course, it could also be grounds for anti-competitive practices, with wealthier companies hogging all the traffic and edging out those that can't afford to become sponsors. This worry has led Wheeler to acknowledge the possibility of abuse in public and to take the responsibility of giving it a closer look.

Wheeler, however, isn't slamming down the gavel just yet. On one hand, the Sponsored Data scheme was just announced a few days ago and will, therefore, need more investigation. On the other hand, Wheeler also has to perform a careful juggling act to show his impartiality, considering his previous job as CEO of the powerful lobbying group, CTIA-The Wireless Association. For Wheeler, however, the mandate to mobile carriers is dead simple: don't screw up the Internet.

VIA: The Verge


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