AT&T spent the better part of last year pretending to shake its fist along with the majority of Americans in support of net neutrality rules being kept. This protesting included CEO Randall Stephenson doing some damage control by slyly asking the Republican Congress to create an “Internet Bill of Rights” that would allow his company to get around the predictable rise in state laws that try to protect their citizens from predatory telecoms, now that telecoms have gotten their way.
AT&T may also have trouble getting consumer advocates on board. Stephenson didn't provide any specifics, including whether the bill of rights would block controversial "fast lanes" for services and sites that pay broadband companies for preferential treatment.
"We don't block websites. We don't censor online content. And we don't throttle, discriminate, or degrade network performance based on content. Period," Stephenson wrote.
Well, that’s good. I guess we should just take your word for it. Or not. As BGR writes today, AT&T sent out some texts to their customers explaining how they are “expanding” their sponsored data program to allow other companies to “sponsor” data. What’s important about this is that their “sponsored” data plan means that companies will pay AT&T in order to have their content streamed on AT&T customers’ devices without hitting against their data plans. As BGR rightly points out, this is the promotion of internet “fast lanes” by almost any definition.
As of right now, the only three services using AT&T’s sponsored data program are DirecTV, UVerse, and Fullscreen. By a huge coincidence, those are three video services owned by AT&T. “Now your plan includes sponsored data. This means, for example, that customers who have DirecTV or U-verse TV can now stream movies and shows … without it counting against their plan data,” AT&T told customers in a text message earlier today.
This flies directly in the face of a statement AT&T made just last year, when it was trying to persuade consumers that the FCC’s net neutrality repeal wouldn’t be the end of a free and open internet. “AT&T intends to operate its network the same way AT&T operates its network today: in an open and transparent manner. We will not block websites, we will not throttle or degrade internet traffic based on content, and we will not unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic,” executive Bob Quinn said at the time.
The next step will be telecoms taking away and throttling your data until the point where you can only afford to stream the data that AT&T gets paid to allow you to watch.