FCC to scrutinize AT&T's Sponsored Data program amid growing backlash

|About: AT&T Inc. (T)|By:, SA News Editor

Two days after AT&T (T) unveiled its Sponsored Data program, giving developers the option to pay for consumer usage of their mobile apps/services, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler suggests his agency will take a close at whether regulatory action is needed.

Wheeler: "Let's take a look at what this is, let's take a look at how it operates ... if it interferes with the operation of the internet; that if it develops into an anticompetitive practice ... then that is cause for us cause to intervene."

A backlash to Sponsored Data hasn't taken long to form. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who represents a Silicon Valley district, asserts the program puts AT&T "in the business of picking winners and losers on the Internet," and that it shows the need to expand the FCC's net neutrality rules to cover wireless services.

The tech press has been just as critical, frequently arguing Sponsored Data will put smaller developers that can't afford to pay at a disadvantage to Web giants. Om Malik: "The final price will be paid by none other that the startup ecosystem that has blossomed in the post-iPhone era and has actually lead to the data usage boom that has allowed Ma Bell to keep posting handsome earnings growth over past few years."