This month a Seattle area startup called Syntonic is offering up a new kind of app and content store to AT&T Mobility customers. What makes this app store different from, say, the iTunes app store or Google Play, is it comes with a free-data pass. Any app downloaded, video watched or site surfed isn’t counted against your data plan.
Syntonic is taking advantage of AT&T’s new sponsored data program, in which developers or advertisers can the pay the mobile data freight charges that would normally be incurred from consuming their content over the cellular network. The program has been controversial to say the least, raising the specter of pay-to-play mobile internet where companies that can afford to foot their customers mobile bills crowd out everyone else.
So far we haven’t seen any big internet companies like Netflix, Amazon or Google rise to the bait, but we have seen a few examples of smaller companies exploring new business models with sponsored data at their center. In January, I profiled Aquto, a marketing company that is using AT&T’s toll-free data to encourage consumers to watch rich media ads on their phones by exempting those ads from their data...