AT&T CEO John Stankey said the company may be offering cell phone plans subsidized by advertising, giving customers monthly discounts of $ 5 or $ 1
According to Reuters, Stankey said AT & T’s ad-supported phone plans could be introduced in “a year or two.” AT&T is already doing back-end work in its targeted advertising system that can increase the value of such plans for AT & T’s advertising sales business:
AT&T engineers create “total customer identifiers,” Stankey said. Such technology enables marketers to identify users across multiple devices and show them relevant advertising.
The ability to fine-tune ad targeting would allow AT&T to sell ads at higher prices, he said.
Stankey also said that a planned ad-supported version of HBO Max would play an important role in ad-supported phone plans, but according to Reuters, he did not offer further details.
“Various companies, including Amazon, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint’s Boost Mobile, have been testing advertising-supported phone services since the early 2000s, but they have not caught on. AT&T hopes better advertising targeting can revive the idea,” Reuters wrote.
AT&T used to charge $ 29 to $ 60 extra for privacy
AT & T’s CEO may be right that some customers accept ads in return for discounts, even though many of them would be low-income people who initially can barely afford telephone service. AT&T offers subsidized plans to low-income people through the U.S. government’s Lifeline program, but AT & T’s website states that its Lifeline plans are only available in 13 of the 50 U.S. states and only in “certain areas” of those states.
AT&T has a controversial history of placing targeted ads on the Internet service in exchange for discounts. In 2015, AT&T offered a $ 70 per share. Month gigabit home internet plan, but that price was only available to customers who agreed to let AT&T analyze their web browser history to deliver targeted ads. Customers who do not sign up for the traffic scanning program, which AT&T called “Internet settings”, would have to pay $ 99 a month instead. With some included plans that included broadband along with TV or phone service, the extra cost for the more private plan was over $ 60 a month.
AT&T completely discontinued the Internet Preferences program in September 2016, but that was not the end of AT & T’s plans to deliver ads based on users’ browsing history. In June 2018, for example, AT&T announced that it was acquiring an advertising company that provides personalized ads based on Internet users’ browsing habits, and then combined the new subsidiary with AT & T’s existing advertising and data analytics companies.
Trump killed the broadband privacy rule
AT & T’s much larger acquisition of Time Warner Inc. provided even more opportunities to join AT & T’s telecommunications services with entertainment and advertising. When AT&T turned the acquisition over to officials in 2017, AT&T said that “more relevant advertising in ad-supported video services” would be one of the primary benefits of the merger. In testimony to Congress in December 2016, then-CEO Randall Stephenson said, “We expect to deliver mobile-optimized content and services and ad-supported services that move more costs from consumers to advertisers.”
The Obama-era Federal Communications Commission sought to impose limits on telecommunications’ use of personal data for advertising with a rule requiring ISPs to obtain opt-in consent from consumers before using or sharing browsing data and other private information. But in early 2017, the Republican-controlled Congress and the Trump administration killed the rule before it could take effect.
What customers really want
The merger of ads and phone plans is perhaps an inevitable result of telecommunications companies buying up media and advertising companies, even if it is not something customers are asking to set up important telecommunications services with more advertising.
AT&T could really help American customers by expanding its fiber-to-home network to Americans who lack modern broadband, which is another topic that came up in the Reuters interview. (Several fiber-optic buildings would also benefit AT & T’s mobile network, especially in rural areas.) Stankey said “AT&T believes it could double its fiber footprint if it had the financial incentive,” Reuters wrote.
Stankey also called for more government broadband funding in a statement released in Politico last week. This continues a story that includes Stankey’s predecessor Stephenson, who in 2017 said AT&T would use a corporate tax credit to create 7,000 jobs for “people who put fiber in [the] land.”
Since then, AT&T has largely stopped fiber expansions, reduced capital expenditures on its networks, and fired tens of thousands of employees. AT&T also does not participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which is set to award up to $ 16 billion in grants to ISPs that expand the broadband service. But at least AT&T mobile customers may be able to save $ 5 a month in exchange for targeted ads.