In response to Google’s rollout of its advanced “Fiber” network, which reportedly delivers internet browsing speeds of up to 1,000 megabits (1,000 Mbps), or 1 gigabit (1 Gb), per second, AT&T has announced the rollout out its “GigaPower” fiber optic service as part of U-verse that offers this same high-speed internet access to customers in select markets.
But reports indicate that users of the service will have to opt out of having their internet surfing habits monitored by “Ma Bell” for the purpose of targeted advertising and emails. According to ITProPortal.com, GigaPower subscribers who choose not to allow AT&T to track their browsing habits for customized advertising will have to pay at least $29 more than other customers for access.
The idea behind the tracking program is to see what GigaPower users are searching for and doing online in order to deliver this data up to third parties for marketing purposes (and data will presumably be shared with government agencies). If a GigaPower user searches for cycling equipment, for instance, AT&T may sell this data to marketers who will target the user with customized biking equipment ads.
GigaPower service is already quite expensive at $139 per month, which is decreased to $110 for users who agree to AT&T’s so-called “Internet Preferences” package. But if you want to use GigaPower service in anonymity (and even this is questionable under the opt-out program), you’ll have to pay more and be treated like a second-class customer.
“[T]he media may be lauding AT&T for putting a $29 monthly price on the value of consumer privacy. But when I look at the practice, I see a company that has little competition, manipulating consumers into choosing to give up their privacy,” wrote Stacey Higginbotham about the service on Gigaom.com.
Opt-outers who bundle AT&T service will pay up to $66 more per month for their privacy
A closer look at the service, however, reveals that GigaPower subscribers who choose to opt out of the Internet Preferences advertising scheme will actually pay more than just a $29 premium. According to calculations made by Higginbotham, opt-outers will actually spend as much as $62 more per month to avoid having their browsing habits sold by AT&T to third-party advertisers.
What AT&T doesn’t clearly explain on its convoluted pricing page is that opt-outers will be forced to pay an additional $7-per-month modem rental fee as well as a $99 one-time activation fee for the service, both fees of which are waived for customers who sign up under the Internet Preference Plan. This nets out to a monthly cost of $114 for opt-outers as opposed to the $70-per-month rate plan for Internet Preference Plan subscribers, a $44 difference.
Worse is the variance for customers who sign up for AT&T’s video service in addition to GigaPower internet service. Opt-outers are charged not only a higher monthly cost of $149 per month as opposed to $120, but they also have to pay an additional $7 monthly fee and a one-time $49 activation fee for the service, as well as a separate $10 monthly fee for HD TV and an additional $16 monthly fee for HBO Go, both of which are included for “free” with the Internet Preference Plan.
This comes out to $186 per month for opt-outers who purchase bundled video and internet service from AT&T, which is $66 higher than the $120 per month that the same customers who allow spying and tracking will pay.
“[W]hen I look at the practice, I see a company that has little competition, manipulating consumers into choosing to give up their privacy,” added Higginbotham.
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