AT&T’s Latest Boondoggle Is To Let App Makers Pay For Users’ Data

The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T is considering giving app makers the option of being charged for the data their users are gobbling up while playing with the app. Let me just start out by calmly saying that this is absolutely ridiculous, and I’d like to call for a People vs. AT&T overturn of the decision right here and now.

See, a study emerged recently showing just how much data the average smartphone user consumes. It’s between 3.2 and 3.9 GB per month.

Now before we get into all the app dev data charge nonsense, there are a couple things that need to be clear. The first is that all the carriers, including AT&T, want you to believe that you’re always nearing that limit, always about to pay a ridiculously high bill because you went over. This is because they’d (ideally) like you to buy a bigger data plan.

This doesn’t make them bad people, but rather good businessmen.

But that study I mentioned included an interesting little tidbit. The top 5 percent of users that AT&T is throttling (once again, for all that excessive data usage) use just about the same amount of data as the top five percent of tiered data subs. Yet, the only ones being throttled are unlimited customers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if that’s the case, then throttling data-hungry unlimited users (who obviously aren’t that data-hungry after all) doesn’t really have much to do with keeping the network speedy.

This is just one of many examples where AT&T is trying to rake in the cash without offering any real value to customers. The whole charging developers for data thing is no different.

To start, this will not affect AT&T’s current data pricing scheme. In other words, you’ll still be paying just as much for data as you were to begin with. Of course, AT&T will market this as a cost-cutting measure I’m sure, and has already said that this will help app makers reign in new users who are “wary of using data-heavy services like mobile video.”

Oh, how wary we are!

But the average smartphone user (one that emails, uploads pics to Facebook, uses a little Spotify here and there, and carries on their merry way) probably doesn’t go past the 5GB data marker. And that’s generous, seeing as the study pegged average data usage (of the top 5 percent of data users, no less) at less than 4GB.

So, you’re still paying for your 5GB of data (much of which goes unused, I’m sure), but now app developers are going to pay for some of your data too. See, now that you’re good and scared of going over on your data, you’ll find an app in whatever store/market and see that it has some sort of “reduced cap impact” status (as MG would put it).

“Hooray!” you think. “I can play with this app and it won’t cost me any data.”

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so in turn the app maker would pay for it. (Remember, you’re still paying the full price of your data plan.) Two revenue streams for the national giant, while the customer and the service provider are both paying for the same thing.

Since AT&T customers pay a hefty $10/GB whenever they go over their cap, it shouldn’t be too hard to get app makers in on this either. Plus, Net Neutrality rules don’t cross over into the mobile realm, so don’t expect any help there.

It’s up to us to not only stand up for fledgling app developers (and big ones, too), but to stand up for ourselves.