AT&T wants to buy your privacy for $29 a month

11 December 2013 by Steve Blum
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Let AT&T know what you like, and they’ll send you interesting ads.

AT&T is offering fiber-to-the-home Internet service in Austin at an introductory rate of $70, if subscribers allow AT&T to monitor their web browsing and use the information to target ads…

Receive our U-verse with GigaPower Premier Offer by choosing AT&T Internet Preferences. When you select AT&T Internet Preferences, we can offer you our best pricing on U-verse with GigaPower because you let us use your individual web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the web pages you visit, to tailor ads and offers to your interests.

If you don’t want AT&T watching what you do on the Internet, the same service will cost $99, according to Fierce Telecom. Initially, AT&T is saying they’ll deliver 300 Mbps speeds at that price, with an eventual upgrade to a gigabit. They’re also offering an introductory TV and Internet bundle for $120, adding voice brings the cost to $150. The intro rates also require a one year commitment and are good for three years.

AT&T’s introductory Internet and TV pricing matches Google’s standard fiber rate card. The exact extent of the FTTH service in Austin isn’t known, except AT&T is saying it’ll roll out to “tens of thousands of households”. AT&T targeted Austin for fiber in response to Google’s plan to install fiber there too.

I don’t know of any other major ISP that offers a discount for allowing them to watch everything you do and use the information pretty much however they want. Google tracks what it customers watch via its fiber television service, but doesn’t mine raw Internet traffic

All information we collect about the use of Google Fiber TV (including use of programs and applications available through Google Fiber TV) may be associated with the Google Account being used for Google Fiber TV… Other information from the use of Google Fiber Internet (such as URLs of websites visited or content of communications) will not be associated with the Google Account you use for Fiber, except with your consent or to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.

Even if you opt out and pay the extra money, AT&T is still going to track you, like any other ISP. They just won’t use the information for marketing purposes, or so they say.

It’ll be interesting to see how this gambit plays out. There could be a nasty backlash. Or maybe Texans will think $29 is a good price for privacy.