AT&T has been testing a sponsored data program for quite a while now, and today the US’s other major carrier has started doing it, too.
Verizon’s FreeBee Data program is a sponsored data service that’s now available “on a beta basis.” The program works by allowing brands and content providers to pay for the data usage that users would incur when viewing their content. This means that users get to view a provider’s content without using up any of their data allotment.
The FreeBee Data program is available in two versions. The FreeBee Data service enables content providers to sponsor content on a per-click basis so that only select content is free of data charges. Users will see a bee icon next to this content. The other service is FreeBee Data 360, which will let content providers offer some or all of their content to users data-free. For example, all of an app or website’s features could be accessed without counting toward the user’s data allotment.
Starting today, the FreeBee Data 360 service is available in beta form. The FreeBee Data service will enter beta on January 25, and Verizon says that it’s already got Hearst Magazines, AOL, and GAMEDAY enrolled in that program. Those companies will provide sponsored data content to around 1,000 users.
With most consumers now on limited data plans, the prospect of content that can be viewed without counting toward a monthly data allotment probably sounds exciting. However, these programs are far from widespread — AT&T has been testing its service for two years now — so most folks aren’t benefitting quite yet. The programs are also subject to a lot of scrutiny, with concerns that they could violate net neutrality and hurt content providers that can’t afford to take part.
What do you think of these sponsored data programs?