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Company News

U.S. Senator Blumenthal demands AT&T drop push for ad-subsidized cellphone plans

Sept 18 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal on Friday called on AT&T Inc to stop pursuing plans to offer cellphone plans partially subsidized by advertising that he said would undermine consumer privacy.

The request on Friday afternoon follows a Reuters interview with AT&T Chief Executive John Stankey this week in which he discussed a plan to discount cellphone bills as early as a year from now.

“I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey said in the interview.

While Stankey said AT&T was not yet announcing a new product available to consumers, he discussed how the company was building toward such an offer as it doubles down on the advertising business.

“Consumers expect that their phone and broadband providers are not spying on their phone calls and web browsing or using their private data for commercial gain,” Blumenthal, Democrat, wrote in a letter to Stankey.

AT&T was not immediately reachable for comment.

The company is hoping to breathe new life in a concept that has not caught on in the past. Although various tech and telecoms companies have offered to discount or offer free mobile services in return for viewing advertising, AT&T is hoping that better user targeting technology would make its version of a service more palatable.

Reporting by Kenneth Li; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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