Monday, February 27, 2012

AT&T investigating 'charging' app developers for apps' data use

Consumers are being encouraged to use more bandwidth by apps such as YouTube and Netflix that want to serve us up content, but ISPs whether mobile or fixed line want us to use less bandwidth. Something has to give, and AT&T reportedly has an idea that would place the onus for paying for bandwidth not on the consumer, where it currently lays, but on the app maker.

John Donovan, the executive responsible for AT&T's network and technology, explained the idea:

"A feature that we're hoping to have out sometime next year is the equivalent of 800 numbers that would say, if you take this app, this app will come without any network usage."

Donovan made the statement at Mobile World Congress, which began on Monday in Barcelona, Spain.

Basically, what Donovan is saying is that users of those apps wouldn't see any of the data used by an app applied to their data limit. For example, a user in AT&T's 3GB tier could use 5GB of data via some video streaming app, but not see an overage fee, as none of that 5GB would apply to their data plan.

It could be seen as "subsidizing" the app's data use, as opposed to subsidizing a cell phone, which is a frequently used scenario for carriers.

It's unclear, though if tech companies would be willing to pay wireless carriers for data use.

The proposal would also appear to violate the spirit of net neutrality, as it gives the advantage to app developers willing to pay for bandwidth.

Still, it would prove to be a solution to the content vs. bandwidth battle. It just wouldn't be as satisfying as network upgrades that would allow a return to unlimited, unthrottled bandwidth for all.

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