AT&T Free Hotspots Inject Ads, Cause Controversy

AT&T Free Hotspots Inject Ads, Cause ControversyLeave it to the folks at Geek to get to the bottom of what looks like an AT&T advertising trial.

“Connect to an AT&T WiFi hotspot now, and there’s a good chance you’re going to see a screen full of ads,” writes Lee Mathews. “It’s an experience that reminds me of the glory days of the frame tag on the Internet, when we had to click a link in a header bar to “break out.”

The problem? AT&T “free” hotspots that make people pay in ad overdose.

“AT&T’s motivation is obvious enough,” explains Mathews. “These are free wireless hotspots we’re talking about, after all, so you’ve got to expect them to be scrounging for revenue somehow. The last time I connected to the WiFi at Toronto’s Pearson airport I was greeted by a Tim Horton’s interstitial.”

Mathews thinks there’s a better solution.

“AT&T is certainly within its rights to want to reap some benefit from a free service, but how about offering users an alternative? Let us non-AT&T customers pay a fee to remove the ads for a 24-hour period. Heck, offer a subscription for a few bucks a month. Plenty of people would be willing to pay for nationwide hotspot access instead of suffering through one littered with ads –assuming they haven’t figured out what an ad blocker is already.”

But maybe no solution is required. Turns out, AT&T was just experimenting.

“AT&T has decided to shed some light as to what’s going on. Here’s their official statement: “We trialed an advertising program for a limited time in two airports (Dulles and Reagan National) and the trial has ended. The trial was part of an ongoing effort to explore alternate ways to deliver a free Wi-Fi service that is safe, secure and fast.”