If nothing else, Google Fiber has helped create a more competitive broadband landscape in the limited markets where it’s launched. AT&T on Wednesday announced that it’s now offering U-Verse subscribers in Austin, Texas a new service called GigaPower that can deliver peak speeds of 300Mbps. AT&T also says that it will bump up speeds to a full 1Gbps sometime next year and that it won’t charge users any more per month when it implements this dramatic speed boost.
That said, AT&T’s new GigaPower service does come with a catch that might turn some users off. As both DSLReports and GigaOM point out, AT&T is charging $70 a month for its GigaPower service as long as users agree to take part in its AT&T Internet Preferences program that will let the company “use your Web browsing information, like the search terms you enter and the Web pages you visit, to provide you relevant offers and ads tailored to your interests.” Users who don’t want to take part in this program will have to pay an extra $30 a month.
While this sounds like AT&T is doing a lot of what Google does when it tracks your search history, cookies and GPS location data, GigaOM and DSLReports warn that it could potentially go further than that by using deep packet inspection (DPI) to track user activity much more extensively. Google has explicitly said that it doesn’t use DPI to track Google Fiber users but AT&T has not yet said whether it will use such technology on its Internet Preferences subscribers.
“We use various methods to collect web browsing information, and we are currently reviewing the methods we may use for the Internet Preferences program,” the company told GigaOM. “Whichever method is used, we will not collect information from secure (https) or otherwise encrypted sites, such as online banking or when a credit card is used to buy something online on a secure site. And we won’t sell your personal information to anyone, for any reason.”