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AT&T has just unveiled a new product. Promoters of an open internet, however, are not fans.
With a new product unveiled Monday called Sponsored Data, AT&T subscribers will be able to take advantage of certain Internet services without that usage counting against their data caps. Instead of paying for that data out of their monthly allotment, customers' consumption will be paid for by the third-party companies offering the services used. Everyone who has a smartphone, tablet or mobile broadband subscription will be covered under the offering, and it seems like a great move by AT&T to help you save on your wireless bill.
The premise is that while normal use of the internet via mobile device will be billed (and capped) as always, individual companies may pay AT&T for their content to be delivered free of charge to the consumer—or at least, free from those omnipresent caps. If the move proves successful it could prove a boon for AT&T and other mobile companies, forcing each competitor for the customer's attention to pay fees to the network to make their content more accessible or risk the consumer choosing a competing company that has taken that step. So does it run afoul of existing network neutrality rules? Nope:
What AT&T is doing is a little different. It's not degrading or blocking "normal" Internet traffic, just shifting the cost onto a different player. Federal regulations that ban outright traffic discrimination also apply only to wired ISPs and not cellular carriers, so AT&T isn't likely to run afoul of those rules.
One could make the case for the move being consumer-friendly at face value: one of the initial partners in the AT&T plan is a mobile advertising company, and it does seem egregious that a consumer being pushed into watching an advertisement on their mobile device before being able to access desired content is also obliged to pay for the dubious privilege of doing it. Surely, raw advertisements could be made free to the consumer, or the costs shifted in this fashion? But what of other content—say, for example, the "interactive customer service offerings" of United Healthcare, another pilot sponsor? What if the Rupert Murdoch collection of companies decides to use their substantial leverage to negotiate a preferred fee for their own offerings, and where does that leave less monied competitors?

And once a sufficient number of companies have agreed to pay to provide their content to consumers, would not the next rational step by network providers be to further shrink plan data caps, putting pressure on remaining companies to join the program and, not coincidentally, further pressuring users into choosing the partnered content over the free versions?

The essential effect would still be a strongly tiered internet, one in which deep-pocketed companies are able to purchase preferential delivery to the consumer while less monied (or, heaven forfend, noncommercial) interests are accessible only as explicitly rationed content. While it may be a glorious new model for watching more and more advertisements on your mobile device, the rest of the picture looks more murky.



Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009GOP Rides a Tall Stack of $20s:

Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981 with three major agenda items on his platter. Two of these were just like Mister Bush's 20 years later: greatly increase defense spending and slash taxes on the wealthy.  He did both. But his greatest effort was devoted to cutting the top tax rate from 70% to 50% to 38% to 28%, giving already wealthy Americans gigantic new piles to play with. Thus did he start us down the road toward a Third World ratio between rich and poor.

Reagan achieved this defense boost and plutocratic tax reduction by borrowing more than all the presidents who had preceded him. That generated a bit of contradiction with the third item supposedly on his agenda: ending the annual budget deficit. At the time of his first inauguration, this hovered around $80 billion a year. The accumulation of past deficits - the national debt - was nearly a trillion dollars. That gave Reagan's speechwriters the focus for a powerful image for him to use in his first address to Congress in February 1981. He said:

I've been trying ... to think of a way to illustrate how big a trillion is.  The best that I could come up with is that if you had a stack of $1000 bills in your hand only four inches high you would be a millionaire. A trillion dollars would be a stack of $1000-dollar bills 67 miles high.
Like so many other things Reagan said, this wasn't true. A trillion-dollar stack of $1000 bills would measure just over 63 miles high. Since the last one was printed in 1945 and use of all large denomination bills was discontinued by the Treasury in 1969, most Americans have never seen a $1000 bill. What we're most familiar with are the $20 bills ATMs spit out. Reagan's image-makers missed the mark. A trillion-dollar stack of twenties would be an impressive 3150 miles high.



Tweet of the Day:

GOP Logic: If we give the rich $ millions, they'll work hard for all of US, but if we give the poor even a few dollars, they'll get lazy.
@TuxcedoCat



On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin brought us Jonathan Chait's "After Obamacare Is No Longer Doomed, It Will Become a Scandal," and its reference to the startlingly stupid assertion that the ACA will usher in an era of legalized beheadings. Maggie Mahar's "Anatomy of an Obamacare 'horror story,'" plus a glimpse inside what remains of the Republican mind in "GOP confident Obamacare is a winner in 2014." The exciting conclusion of "When 'Life Hacking' Is Really White Privilege." The emerging story of the late Rep. Bill Young's first family. Murders are down pretty much everywhere. Is it about gun laws? Or some combination of pretty much everything in the world?



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