FCC wary of AT&T's new "Sponsored Data" program

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler used his talk at CES today to put AT&T’s controversial new “Sponsored Data” program on notice. “My attitude is: let’s take a look at what this is, let’s take a look at how it operates,” Wheeler said. “And be sure, that if it interferes with the operation of the internet; that if it develops into an anticompetitive practice; that if it does have some kind of preferential treatment given somewhere, then that is cause for us to intervene.”

During CES 2014, AT&T announced a new service called Sponsored Data. Basically the idea is that instead of using your own data to view movies or download apps, AT&T will allow companies to sponsor you some data instead. For example if Netflix were to run a promotion where they provide free movies as a trial, instead of you using your own data to download said movies, Netflix will instead sponsor you that amount of data, meaning that the movie you download will not eat into your data allowance. AT&T’s CEO Ralph de la Vega called it a win-win situation for consumers and businesses alike, and while it does have its merits, some are worried about its effects on fair competition.

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