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AT&T's Answer to Google Fiber Is Absolutely Ludicrous


AT&T offers users a $29 discount for the chance to have their web usage monitored and tailored to ads.

If you don't live in the Kansas City, Austin, or Provo areas, then chances are you hate your Internet service provider.

In the United States, where we rank an embarrassing 31st in the world for average download speeds with most users unable to switch to a different provider, our savior comes in the form of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Fiber. Unfortunately, the coveted gigabit service is still exclusive to those aforementioned cities and Google has said it has no plans to go nationwide any time soon.

Still, Google Fiber has competing ISPs in those areas absolutely desperate to keep customers from flocking to the much better service -- to the point where Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) reps were knocking on people's doors begging them not to switch. Although our schadenfreude is quelled by not being able to see our providers that frantic and fearful on a nationwide scale, it has sparked some ISPs to lower rates and boost speeds in local areas to put them closer to what Google can offer.

But a new deal thought up by AT&T (NYSE:T) braintrust proves cable providers are completely out of touch with the public and will blatantly screw over their customers even when trying to win them back.

At a time when concerns about the privacy of our web activity is at an all-time high, AT&T has offered a 300 megabits per second service in Austin (gigabit speeds are apparently forthcoming) where customers can pay $99 for the standard service or pay $29 less per month if they allow their web usage to be monitored and fed into ads.

According to the plan, for $70 a month, you can participate in the "AT&T Internet Preferences" program (sounds innocuous!) and have the company "use your web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the web pages you visit, to provide you relevant offers and ads tailored to your interests." (Sounds terrible!)

The offer states, "You won't necessarily receive more ads when you are online, but those you do see may be more suited to your interests. For example: If you search for concert tickets, you may receive offers and ads related to restaurants near the concert venue."

AT&T stressed it won't sell your personal information to advertisers but will use it to direct another advertiser's ad to you, which is still enough to leave a bad taste in many mouths.

Ad-supported business models are hardly new or unique. Anyone who uses Gmail, Pandora (NYSE:P), or Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) already knows about the banner ads which keep a service free, but this plan is downright laughable in its attempt to win customers over. Nobody wants their web activity monitored, no matter how many "assurances" that their personal information is safe. And to attach that concept to a service that's slower (with a promise of faster speeds in the future) and isn't cheaper than Google's gigabit alternative, well, that's a pretty awful plan.

And, oh yeah, there's still a data cap and overage fees.
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