AT&T wants to advertise on their smartphone in exchange for a $ 5 rebate

in great shape / AT&T sign outside a company office in New York City.

AT&T CEO John Stanke said the company could offer advertising-subsidized cellphone plans, allowing customers to get a monthly discount of $ 5 or $ 10 in exchange for ads on their phones. Stanke said in an interview with Reuters yesterday, “I believe there is a segment of our subscriber base where given an option, they charge a load of advertising for $ 5 or $ 10 reduction in their mobile bill. Take. ” Stanke apparently did not disclose what form the advertisements would take.

According to Reuters, Stanke said AT & T’s ad-supported phone plans could be introduced “in a year or two”. AT&T is already working back-end to its targeted-advertising system, which could increase the value of such plans for AT & T’s ad-sales business:

Stanke said AT&T engineers are creating “integrated customer identifiers”. Such technology allows marketers to identify users of multiple devices and serve them relevant advertisements.

He said that the ability to target advertising would allow AT&T to sell advertising at a higher rate.

Stanke also said that a planned ad-supported version of HBO Max would play an important role in ad-supported phone plans, but he did not offer further details, according to Reuters.

“Reuters wrote,” Various companies, including Amazon, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint’s Boost Mobile, have tested ad-supported phone services since the early 2000s, but have paid no attention to this. AT&T hopes that better ad targeting can be revived.

AT&T used to charge $ 29 to $ 60 extra for privacy

The CEO of AT&T may be right that some customers will accept advertisements in exchange for discounts, although many of them will be low-income people who can barely offer phone service at first. AT&T offers subsidized plans to low-income people through the US government’s Lifeline program, but AT&T’s website says its Lifeline wireless plans are available only in 13 of the 50 U.S. states, and only in those states In the “fixed fields” of.

AT&T has a controversial history of placing targeted advertisements on Internet services in exchange for discounts. In 2015, AT&T offered a $ 70 per month gigabit home-internet plan, but the price was only available to customers who agreed to analyze their web browsing history to deliver targeted advertisements to AT&T. Customers who did not opt ​​for the traffic-scanning program, which AT&T called “Internet Preference”, had to pay $ 99 per month instead. With some bundled plans that also included broadband with TV or phone service, the additional cost for a more private plan was $ 60 per month.

AT&T completely terminated the Internet Priority Program in September 2016, but it was not the end of AT & T’s plan to advertise based on its users’ browsing history. For example, in June 2018, AT&T announced that it was purchasing an advertising company that distributes personal ads based on the web browsing habits of Internet users and then AT & T’s existing advertising and data-analytics businesses Combines new subsidiary with.

Trump kills broadband-privacy rule

AT & T’s very large purchase of Time Warner Inc. provided even more capabilities to engage in AT & T’s telecommunications services along with entertainment and advertising. When pitching the acquisition to government 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 a December 2016 congressional testimony, Randall Stephenson, then CEO, said: “We expect to deliver mobile-optimized content and services and ad-supported services, shifting more costs from consumers to advertisers.”

The Obama-era Federal Communications Commission approved telecommunications use of personal data for advertising, with a rule requiring ISPs to obtain opt-in consent from consumers before using or sharing web browsing data and other private information. Tried to put limits on. But in early 2017, Republican-controlled Congress and the Trump administration killed the rule before it took effect.

What customers really want

The merger of advertisements and phone plans is an inevitable result of telecom companies buying the media and advertising businesses, though the lack of essential telecommunications services with more advertising is not something customers are asking for.

AT&T can actually help those customers who lack modern broadband by expanding their fiber-to-home network to American customers, which is another topic that came up in a Reuters interview. (AT&T’s mobile network will also benefit from more fiber builds, especially in rural areas.) Stanke said that “AT&T believes it would have doubled its fiber footprint if there was an economic stimulus.” Could have, “Reuters wrote.

Stankey also called for more government broadband funding in an opinion excerpt published in Politico last week. It continues a history that includes Stanke’s predecessor Stephenson in 2017 who says AT&T will use a corporate tax break to create 7,000 jobs “to put people in fiber” [the] land. ”

Since then, AT&T has largely halted fiber expansion, reduced capital expenditures on its network, and laid off thousands of employees. AT&T is also not participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which is set to award up to $ 16 billion in grants to ISPs expanding broadband service. But at least AT&T Mobile customers can get a chance to save $ 5 per month in exchange for targeted advertisements.