FreedomPop to Introduce Sponsored Data Access

AT&T has been criticized in some quarters for supporting a “sponsored data ” retail model where content or other sponsors pay for mobile data charges to support end user consumption of some particular apps.

The concern is that such practices contribute to creation of a multi-tiered or two-tier Internet where some apps and services are more favored than others, even when--or perhaps precisely because--the feature is available to all content and app providers.

But such sponsored data consumption has been tried in a number of developing markets, typically to encourage use of social apps. And though there has been some criticism of sponsored data, even major app providers are working to do so.

Pryte, for example, now owned by Facebook, specializes in creating platforms that allow service or app providers to collaborate in offering such sponsored app programs.

Now there is more movement in the direction of sponsored data consumption, this time by FreedomPop, the Internet access provider attempting to disrupt the pricing of mobile and untethered Internet access in the U.S. market.

FreedomPop is planning a Pryte-style “pay as you app” feature allowing users to buy data allowances for specific apps, including both a “buy what you need” offer and a “no incremental cost” offer using a sponsored data approach.

Here’s the point: such forms of innovation do not strictly “treat all apps alike.” The plans provide direct and clear end user value, but not on a “universal” basis. As so often is the case, there is a choice: treat all apps alike, and not provide value in an innovative and consumer-friendly way, or insist rigidly on treating all apps alike, and not providing that value.
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