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.
Well it turns out that the FCC does not seem too eager about AT&T’s recent move as well, and speaking at CES today is the FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, in which he revealed that the FCC was closely monitoring AT&T’s new Sponsored Data program and are more than happy to intervene should it interfere with operation of the open internet. “My attitude is: let’s take a look at what this is, let’s take a look at how it operates […] 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 cause to intervene.”
This will not be the first time that AT&T has had their plans objected by government bodies. Back n 2011, the US DOJ filed a lawsuit to block the AT&T T-Mobile meger, which ultimately led to their plans falling apart, resulting in AT&T having to pay T-Mobile a breakup fee as well as give them some of their spectrum in the process.