AT&T Essentially Will Pay its Austin Access Customers $30 a Month for the Right to Use Browsing History to Target Ads

AT&T probably is the first Internet service provider ever to agree to pay users for the value of their browsing behavior. AT&T might not be the first app provider to do so, as some might argue Google has had a limited program in place for about a year or so. 

But the big deal is that AT&T, in Austin, will give gigabit access users a choice: pay $99 a month for a gigabit access connection, with no tracking, or $70 a month, when users give AT&T the right to track browsing behavior in return for a $30 a month discount on access fees.

For policy advocates and others who think users actually own their data, and should be compensated when behavioral data is used to target advertising, that essentially is what AT&T will do in Austin, Texas.

AT&T in Austin, Texas is launching it “GigaPower” all-fiber Internet access network for prices starting at $70 a month, featuring speeds of 300 Mbps downstream initially, and a boost to 1 Gbps in 2014.

AT&T will offer two “U-verse with GigaPower” offers. The “Premier” version will cost $70 a month, while the “Standard” plan will cost $99 a month.

You might find it odd that the premier version costs less than the standard version.

The reason is the value to AT&T of collecting use browsing history. “U-verse with GigaPower Premier offer is available with your agreement to participate in AT&T Internet Preferences,” AT&T says.

Internet Preferences allows AT&T to use customer Web browsing information, such as the search terms people enter and the Web pages customer visit, to provide relevant offers and ads to customers based on that profil, e.

That will not be a popular practice in some quarters, but some have argued that users should be compensated when ISPs or other application providers “pay users for the value of their behavior.”

In essence, that is what AT&T is doing, compensating users at $30 a month for the right to use browsing behavior to tailor advertising and other marketing offers.

As now has become a standard industry practice, potential buyers can sign up at www.att.com/gigapower. AT&T then will build first in the areas with highest indicted demand.

“Expansion plans will, in part, be influenced by the number of Austinites voting for their neighborhood at www.att.com/gigapower,” AT&T says.
It might be overlooked, but AT&T is doing what some have advocated for some time, namely compensating users for the value of their behavior online, when used to target advertising.

That’s huge.
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