AEI, Anticipating Net Neutrality Ruling, Defends AT&T Sponsored Data

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-01-13 Print this article Print

Companies are always making strategic decisions about how to spend their money, he argued. An upstart Web firm could use Sponsored Data to "make a splash" and "reach consumers in a way they otherwise wouldn't be able to."

Later in the call he added, "To say Sponsored Data plans only benefit large, established providers is wrong. … We've seen any number of players over the years … use something like this, whether advertising or partnerships to enter new markets. … [Banning it] would be like prohibiting an upstart from advertising in a magazine. … To presume this could only benefit large players is incorrect."

Layton argued that the presence of new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who was confirmed in October 2013, is likely to change things. The net neutrality debate has been ongoing for more than a decade, she said, and likely isn't something Wheeler wants to inherit.

"If I were the new chairman, I don't want the day-old bread," said Layton.

"Wheeler would like a game-changer and to not keep playing out the stalemate. There's an argument that we need net neutrality because it supports innovation, [but] that's impossible to measure," she continued.

Wheeler has said that the FCC will look into Sponsored Data, though during a Jan. 9 speech at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, he suggested his distaste for over-regulating.

"I am not interested in protecting competitors from competition, nor am I interested in presiding over a festival of rent seeking," said Wheeler. "But I am committed to maintaining our networks as conduits for commerce large and small."  

Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy group, also based in Washington, D.C., is among the groups that have argued against Sponsored Data and in favor of net neutrality.

"The way we see it, net neutrality is when the company that connects you to the Internet can't control what you do on the Web," Bartees Cox, director of media relations at Public Knowledge, told eWEEK after the AEI call. "We see what AT&T is planning to do as a violation of this. By excluding certain companies from a data cap, they have automatically limited choices for viewers and the opportunity to enter the online video market for new entrants."

As for the pending net neutrality decision, Cox added that experts said that an agreement wouldn't be reached before January.

"It seems that most people took that as them saying that they should have a decision by January. The truth is, nobody knows when a decision will come down. It could be tomorrow or the end of April."


Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel