AT&T Cuts Broadband Prices For Austin Users Who OK Ad Targeting

by , Dec 11, 2013, 6:17 PM
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AT&T, which is rolling out high-speed broadband service in Austin, Texas, intends to offer a cheaper plan to subscribers who are willing to receive ads targeted based on their Web activity, the company said on Wednesday.

The telecom said on Wednesday that its new fiber network will offer service with speeds of up to 300 Mbps, which will increase to 1 Gbps next year. Austin residents can sign up for “premier” service for $70 a month, or “standard” service for $99 a month. AT&T also will waive equipment, installation and activation fees for people who sign up for premier service.

But to be eligible for the premier service, people must agree to participate in AT&T's targeted-ad program, which the company describes as follows: “AT&T may use your Web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the Web pages you visit, to provide you relevant offers and ads tailored to your interests.”

Privacy advocates have previously challenged ad targeting by Internet service providers, which have access to almost everything users do online -- including their search activity. Ad networks, which rely on cookies to target people, typically have access to more limited data.

Given the vast amount of data available to ISPs, some advocates have said that broadband carriers should obtain users' explicit consent before engaging in this type of ad targeting. Here, AT&T seems to be doing so, says Harold Feld, senior vice president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge.

“As far as I know, there's no legal problem, particularly because this is very much an opt-in program,” he says. But, he adds, the initiative troubles him. “I'm not happy with the trend. I'd rather that privacy be a right than a commodity that is bought and sold. I have the same feeling about this program that I do when debating questions about whether people should be allowed to sell their organs and teeth.”

3 comments on "AT&T Cuts Broadband Prices For Austin Users Who OK Ad Targeting".

  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: December 12, 2013 at 9:51 p.m.
    This should be illegal. Does it have any basis in net neutrality ?
  2. Paul Robinson from Viridian Development Corporation
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 5:26 p.m.
    All you need to do is use the hosts file; find out where they're serving the ads from, and redirect those domain names into either localhost or into a dummy address/request that returns an immediate empty item; presto, not only does the ad not show up, it not shows up fast, and you get the discount.
  3. Paul Robinson from Viridian Development Corporation
    commented on: December 13, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.
    Net neutrality does not apply here; you're agreeing to accept advertising in exchange for a reduced-price service. You have the option to pay more for a no-advertising plan. This is capitalism at its finest, you get to choose what you want and are not forced to take the ads.

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