Fast Company

AT&T Offers Discounted Gigabit Internet—In Exchange For Spying On You

Would you pay $70 a month for faster Internet access--if AT&T could look at your web-browsing habits?

If you live in one of four Austin neighborhoods, you can now sign up for AT&T's GigaPower high-speed, 300 Mbps all-fiber Internet service--for just $70 a month (AT&T promises to bump you up to 1Gbps in mid-2014 for free). This move is a shot across the bow to Google, which announced in April that it was bringing Google Fiber, its 1Gbps Internet connection, to Austin by mid-2014.

Gigabit Internet isn't just about blazing-fast movie downloads and real-time online multiplayer gaming, however. The technology has the potential to ease network congestion in places like universities and hospitals, thanks to its sheer speed.

With AT&T's new service there is, however, a catch. To get the low pricing, you must agree to "participate in AT&T Internet Preferences," which means that you give AT&T the rights to use your web-browsing information, your searches, and the pages you visit in order to target you with ads and relevant offers.

AT&T customers will have two choices of service:

Premier: Internet speeds up to 300 Mbps with free equipment, installation, and activation fees for $70 a month (only if you sign up for AT&T's Internet Preferences program). Customers who also select U-verse TV will receive free HBO, HBO GO for 36 months, and HD service for $120 per month with qualifying TV services

Standard: Internet speeds up to 300 Mbps for $99 a month (no AT&T targeted ads).

It's unclear where exactly will AT&T place these targeted ads. After all, users are likely going to be pretty annoyed if they get AT&T's ads overlaid on top of web pages as they're browsing.

But privacy freaks can breathe a little easier, as AT&T told GigaOM that the company will not collect information from secure (https) or otherwise encrypted sites, and will not sell personal information to anyone.

[Image: Flickr user Mato Rachela]

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