AT&T’s new ‘Turbo’ charge raises net neutrality concerns

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AT&T is now charging mobile customers an additional $7 per month for faster wireless data speeds with a new “Turbo” add-on. AT&T says the add-on is “built to support high-performance mobile applications, like gaming, social video broadcasting, and live video conferencing, with optimised data while customers are on the go.”

The new fee comes just a week after the FCC voted to restore net neutrality rules that prohibit internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or paid prioritisation that favours some internet traffic over others.

AT&T claims the Turbo add-on “boosts all the high-speed and hotspot data on a user’s connection,” though the company notes the speed increase will be more noticeable for certain data-intensive applications.

The $7 monthly charge applies to each individual line on an account, meaning customers with multiple lines will need to pay the Turbo fee for each one to receive the speed boost.

The Turbo tier is only available for 5G phones on certain “unlimited” AT&T plans. To enable different service levels, the carrier is utilising Quality of Service Class Identifiers (QCIs) – all eligible plans will be moved to QCI 8, while customers who pay for Turbo will be bumped up to the higher priority QCI 7 tier. QCI 6 is reserved for public safety professionals on AT&T’s FirstNet service.

AT&T’s add-on has raised questions about whether the new fee structure violates the FCC’s revived net neutrality principles against paid prioritisation that disadvantages certain internet traffic.

Some consumer advocates had urged the FCC to explicitly prohibit such practices, warning that carriers might charge consumers premium fees to provide speed boosts for gaming, video streaming, and other data-heavy applications while leaving other services in a slower tier.

The FCC could potentially view AT&T’s new Turbo fee as akin to how home internet providers charge different prices for various speed tiers—a longstanding industry practice. But the agency may also examine whether creating separate, paid service tiers for mobile data harms broadband quality for users who don’t pay extra.

See also: T-Mobile closes acquisition of Mint owner

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Tags: 5G, at&T, connectivity, mobile, net neutrality, Networks, Operators, telecoms, turbo


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