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AT&T continues to push for internet ‘fast lanes’
AT&T has told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that if they want to prioritize speeds on one website over another, they should have the power to do so. Last week, AT&T officials met with FCC lawyers to argue that Internet “fast lanes”should be allowed (otherwise known as “paid prioritization”).
As The Hill notes, AT&T has an example as to why this would be a good thing.
“For instance, a business might want to give workers faster access to certain websites over others when traffic gets clogged, to incentivize employees to stay on task rather than surf the web.” – The Hill
According to AT&T, their “sponsored data” arrangements “could allow additional ways for edge providers to differentiate themselves and attract customers, while customers would benefit by saving money.”
In reality, AT&T is simply looking to create a program that gives them an additional revenue stream by allowing select organizations to have another advantage over smaller competitors that can’t afford additional advertising. When AT&T first introduced the idea of a Sponsored Data program, they claimed that a number of large corporations were on board with them. Yet, as of today, AT&T is finding interest quite minimal due to the net neutrality implications and questions of whether the advertising even works.
As venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote about in a blog post, a world with just ESPN, Facebook and Google getting to pay to have their services and content higher on the food chain is far from what good for consumers.
Entrepreneur: I plan to launch a better streaming music service. It leverages the data on what you and your friends currently listen to, combines that with the schedule of new music launches and acts that are touring in your city in the coming months and creates playlists of music that you should be listening to in order to find new acts to listen to and go see live.VC: Well since Spotify, Beats, and Apple have paid all the telcos so that their services are free on the mobile networks, we are concerned that new music services like yours will have a hard time getting new users to use them because the data plan is so expensive. We like you and the idea very much, but we are going to have to pass.Entrepreneur: I plan to launch a service that curates the funniest videos from all across the internet and packages them up in a 30 minute daily video show that people will watch on their phones as they are commuting to work on the subway. It’s called SubHumor.VC: Well since YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix have paid all the telcos so that their services are free via a sponsored data plan, I am worried that it will hard to get users to watch any videos on their phones that aren’t being served by YouTube, Hulu, or Netflix. We like you and your idea very much, but we are going to have to pass. – AVC.com
It appears that most companies don’t see the benefit in paying AT&T an additional fee “just to bypass the company’s arbitrary usage limits.”
Additionally, AT&T is having trouble getting the public to believe them that there are actual consumer benefits to these fast-lanes. AT&T has a history of outright lying to try and get what they want from regulators. When AT&T was trying to takeover T-Mobile, AT&T claimed that eliminating a competitor (T-Mobile) would somehow improve competition. In previous filings to the FCC, AT&T makes the rather laughable claim that with no network neutrality laws or consumer protections, AT&T would then have the ability to lower costs for consumers.
If AT&T is so confident about these moves, can we get their promises in writing and have them be mandatory the next time AT&T is looking to have something passed through regulators?