back to article AT&T plan: Let content providers pay your bandwidth bill

AT&T is developing a plan that would allow mobile-application developers and content providers to pay for the wireless bandwidth required to use their apps or downlload their content. "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 …


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  1. oldtaku Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    It's a trap!

    That was my first thought as well. Now they can charge both you /and/ the app provider for the bandwidth.

    Because there is no way in heck that AT&T would be doing this as a service to the user.

    1. Tom 35

      Re: It's a trap!

      They have been trying to say that content providers are free-loading and should pay for some time, this is just another attempt to charge both ends. I would not be surprised if that "800" fee includes a percent of the contents cost and not just a fee for the data.

      1. Suburban Inmate
        Thumb Up

        @ Tom35

        Agreed, if there were no content providers, they wouldn't sell a bugger's worth of bandwidth.

    2. James O'Brien
      Thumb Up

      Re: It's a trap!

      Agreed with you.

      Of course this is one area where Sprint shines with their unlimited data plan...just wonder for how much longer they will have it.

      1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

        Re: Re: It's a trap!

        AT&T are such scumbags, anything they are "for" means the customer is by definition being screwed. They can't help it.

        AT&T is the perfect example of why if corporations (in the US) should have the same rights as real people, they should also be subject to jail time and the death penalty.

    3. g e

      Re: It's a trap!


      Where there's shareholders to please there's hidden fees ;o)

  2. earl grey

    Just another attempt

    They keep forgetting they're the pipe and that people are getting what they want from the net and both ends ARE ALREADY PAYING THEIR WAY. Crooks.

    1. YorksinOaks

      Re: Just another attempt

      Pehaps you could explain how ""both ends ARE ALREADY PAYING THEIR WAY..""

      If you spend all evening watching 5GB of data on BBS iPlayer, exactly what are the BBC paying towards your use of ther pipe? If you spend £1.99 on an app that pulls down 200MB per day, through what means is that app provider chanelling his investment in ISP backbone , interconnect, GSN, RAN and site rental and power? I don't see how either organisation are paying their way, and that is exactly the problem.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Re: Just another attempt

        The BBC doesn't get a free internet connection. They have to pay for bandwidth too for all the videos they upload.

      2. frank ly

        @YorksinOaks Re: Re: Just another attempt

        If I watch BBC iPlayer, I am paying my ISP to shovel the data from the 'internet' to my house. Also, the BBC is paying their provider to shovel it from their servers to the 'internet'. What happens on the 'internet', in terms of who pays for it, is an arrangement between ISPs and higher level organisations.

        If I use an app that pulls down 200MB a day, the app is working for me, installed on my PC or phone. In the operation of the app, it is me who my ISP is shoveling data to and another operator is shoveling website data (see first paragraph example). The app is not an 'end', it is me who is the 'end'

        As for 'either organisation (do you mean each end?) paying their way', it is up to the provider of the service (data storage and shoveling) to adjust their charges (and organise their investment and operations) to make a profit. The problem is that they didn't think it through and didn't adapt as their initial assumptions blew up on them. Imagine a postal service that offered an 'all you can eat' deal on sending parcels; they would soon run into problems. If the ISPs want to recover the situation, they will have to think up realistic charging structures and operate in a sensible way.

      3. Confused Vorlon

        Re: Re: Just another attempt

        as far as the ecosystem is concerned; the bbc is more than paying their way - they pay to produce the content and make it available.

        The ISPs try to argue that the BBC is then using up the ISP bandwidth and should pay for that.

        Let's try a thought experiment; What would happen if BT broadband turned round and said that you couldn't access iPlayer. I think we can confidently predict that people wouldn't by BT broadband.

        From this, we can conclude that BBC provides the value, the ISP charge for access to it. They have nothing to sell without the BBC (and many others) providing valuable content to access.

        If anyone should be paying - perhaps the ISP should be contributing towards the cost of producing programs that make people want to buy fancy broadband packages...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see content being packed with ads eating up even more bandwidth.

  4. Christian Berger

    Funny only the big ISPs complain about bandwidth cost

    Small ISPs never seem to complain about the cost of bandwidth.

    The problem is quite simple. Large ISPs, and particularly mobile ISPs, don't want to be "bit shifters" anymore. They want to provide some advantage over other ISPs.

    Now the sane way is to have good customer support and good technology, but those 2 things are actually hard to do and sometimes even cost money. Making sure your staff is properly motivated is not trivial.

    However making contracts with "content providers" is much easier, you only need to invite them to a dinner or play golf with them. And exclusive content might be an advantage over your competition.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ... it's the ones that were born a telco that complain the most.

      So this is yet another attempt at pushing bandwidth billing into the same sort of model that made them so much money for providing circuit-switched network access. Only the internet isn't circuit switched. As with the techies*, as with the brass: Telco people Just Don't Get packet switching.

      * Think ATM. It's not a bad idea, it just doesn't fit packet switched content very well.

      1. Christian Berger

        Re: Actually...

        Actually not really, my ISP started as a Telco, and they still offer a wide range of classical telephony services.

        I think there is more correlation than causality. Since DSL Telcos tend to be large ISPs, too. One big counterexample are cable providers who often even tend to complain a lot about traffic, too, but mostly because they have real bottlenecks they cannot fix. Cable is full, you cannot cram more into it without actually digging up the ground and splitting up your network.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a better idea: Fuck off with these stupid capped plans.

    I pay to use their service and they stop whining about not making enough money, despite having a steady increase of the profit year by year.

  6. Mixedbag

    It does thought increase the incentive of the application provider to be efficient in terms of data

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A very fair point indeed

      BB by all accounts were quite efficient at moving bits about. Current smart phones and their many apps seem to care less about that. I'm not sure the technology has moved on so much as to warrant such a blasé attitude.

      I'd really like iOS to tell me which apps are the worst offenders. (no doubt lot's of android users will tell me that android does just that, but I actually quite like my iPhone, the many apps I have bought and the huge amount of digital media that works on my iPhone so please don't bother).

  7. Gavin Park Weir

    ISP revenue

    ISPs just don't get it. They are currently charging the maximum they can in their market to both the content providers and consumers.

    If they want a slice of the content revenue then all they have to do is to create content the consumers want. Creating content is a much riskier business than infrastructure. Some bets pay off and others don't

    If their distribution method is so valuable they would be able to charge more than they are. As it is competition keeps the prices where they are.

  8. dssf

    If content providers are made to pay for an 800-number-like scheme,

    Then what of moms and pops who have Flickr or similar accounts chock-full of videos and photos? If such a site is popular, and the commercial or professional end of the transport pipe is charged, those access providers will just up their service/storage fees, won't they?

    Carrier greed can end up have a cascading, destructive, reeling effect on the entire communications stream.

  9. chris lively

    By far the easiest way to increase charges is to push the bill away from the ones using the service.

    This will not reduce rates by any stretch. Nor will it result in a lower "bill" for consumers. That money has to come from somewhere. Which means app producers will have to charge more for their applications or raise advert rates, which ultimately means the consumers pay more.

  10. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Only two options?

    > shrink your data plan so much that you'd be forced to choose between using only "800 number"

    > providers or upgrading to a more expensive plan in order to download unsubsidized data

    You left out option three: simply don't download a bunch of crap in the first place.

    My AT&T plan is capped at 5GB/month, and if I could change it to a lower cap for significantly lower cost, I would. I've never come anywhere close to that. But then I use the data plan primarily for an Internet connection for my laptop ("tethering", though there's no physical tether, since I know how to use Bluetooth) when I'm traveling, and I use the laptop primarily for work, and that somehow doesn't involve downloading gigabytes of data.

    Yes, I realize many people feel the need to watch television on their phones and the like; but not everyone does.

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