AT&T is considering a plan to allow mobile developers to pay the data charges associated with using their apps.
John Donovan, the head of AT&T’s network and technology business, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, likened it to toll-free calling:
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 come without any network usage.
That could be a boon for users nearing their data limits. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have discontinued their unlimited data plans and overage charges get pricey really quickly. No data charges could be appealing, especially, for use of streaming video, which eats up bandwidth quickly. Donovan also was quoted as saying:
What they’re saying is, why don’t we go create new revenue streams that don’t exist today and find a way to split them.
USA Today sees the difference as a a free game app versus a $2.99 version that doesn’t count toward the user’s data limit.
However, such a plan could provide an advantage to larger companies that can afford to pay the data fees, while individual developers likely could not. And as writer Steven Musil put it at CNET:
Also, by allowing companies to pay for customers to have better access to content, the specter of Net neutrality returns.