Do you want to hand off the costs of your wireless data usage to the apps you run? Before 2016 comes to an end, that could very well happen. Verizon has recently announced a new program to allow for that. It’s being labeled “sponsored data,” and it’s the equivalent of toll free calling for the Internet age. The program is called FreeBee Data 360, and it launched today, Jan. 19.
FreeBee Data will come in two varieties, the first of which is the aforementioned 360 plan. That offering allows the content provider, like a news service, sponsor some or all of the mobile data used to access that content. The second program, launching Jan. 25, allows for content providers to pay for specific taps, such as on a promotional video or app download. Brands already signed up to participate in the pay-per-tap trial include Hearst Magazines, AOL and Gameday.
Colton Hillier, vice president for consumer products at Verizon, pointed out how FreeBee Data is a game changer in marketing.
With 1 in 3 Americans now watching videos on their smartphone, and another 100 million on tablets, the business case for mobile is clear. In today’s digital economy, FreeBee Data is a departure from the one size fits all approach to marketing. The opportunity to add value and utility to consumers’ everyday experiences will fundamentally transform how brands and businesses connect with their customers.
In the initial phases of testing, Verizon will only be working with a few partners, but it plans on expanding rapidly. AT&T has been working on a similar product for a couple of years, but its own offering only has six sponsored data providers.
This sounds like a terrific idea, but I imagine smaller companies, unable to pick up the tab for data use, will cry out that it interferes with the notion of net neutrality. Hopefully, those arguments could be easily quashed by the argument that who pays for data is a billing issue, not a matter of giving one service’s traffic priority over another’s.