AT&T DSL Downgrades Email, That You Pay For, To Include Ads

AT&T DSL subscribers who use their ISP email will now have the pleasure of seeing ads in their email service. That they pay for. Did we say that already?

We’re not sure whether this means ads will simply appear in the email interface or be inserted at the bottom of emails but reader Crayonshinobi is not happy.

Of the announcement that landed in his inbox this morning, he says, “I’m finding it ridiculous that all of our pay services now have to come bundled with advertising…and it was really slimily written too…until now, as a DSL subscriber, I received the non-ad supported webmail service, so by placing ads in my webmail, you’ve just removed services from me in effect…Thankfully, I use firefox with adblock…so if there are ads…I won’t be seeing them anyway.”

We have a great new advertising plan. Paint your ads rocks and throw them into people’s windows. Guerrilla marketing at its finest! — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. mopar_man says:

    I have AT&T DSL but luckily I use Gmail and AdBlock so this doesn’t affect me in the slightest. Nice to see them doing this without a price drop in their services though.

  2. iMike says:

    It’s trivial to opt out of seeing ads by using Firefox/AdBlock Plus so this is basically a non-issue.

  3. Benny Gesserit says: here in Canada did something similar, oh, a couple of years back. They abandoned NNTP (Newsgroup) service completely (as “our subscribers didn’t see value in it” or some such nonsence.) Shortly thereafter, mail service was farmed out to Yahoo Canada. I suppose they wanted to focus on keeping the ISP infrastructure working instead of following bouncing email servers.

    The experience has been positive for the most part – we’re yet to see adverts either attached to email or received advert email directly.

    Maybe AT&T

  4. Benny Gesserit says:

    (gosh darn backspace key) As I started to say…

    Maybe AT*T negotiated a cheaper deal than Rogers?

  5. JMB says:

    @iMike: I disagree. While it might be easy to block the ads with Firefox/AdBlock, that doesn’t mean it’s “trivial” to put ads on a subscription based service. Just because I have a DVR, doesn’t mean that I’m going to be happy if HBO starts putting commercials in their movies.

  6. dbeahn says:

    I dunno about DSL, but with Comcast, you pay for the connection, and e-mail is one of the services you get “free, for being a customer”. In other words, e-mail goes down for 3 weeks, you call for credit, you get told “OK, I’ll credit you for 3 weeks of e-mail service. Since e-mail is something you get at no charge with your connection, 3 weeks times zero is zero. I’ll get that credit of zero issued immediately!”

  7. masterdave says:

    Do people still actually use their ISP email? I’ve changed ISP’s so many times in the last 10 years, that if I did that I’d be sending out those ungodly annoying “hay guys I’ve changed my email address AGAIN!” emails often enough that people would just…


    start using a free or paid 3rd party email site. I hear google is doing something with webmail these days. Personally I use for all my email, since I can do pop3/imap and webmail with a pretty decent interface. (and it has WAP access which is kinda nice too). $15 one-time gets you ad-free, $20/year gets you a pretty robust email service. (and 40/year for your own domains). It’s not as good as having your own email server, but it’s good enough for me and I don’t have to deal with my ISP email and I’ve had the same address for a long, long time.

  8. crayonshinobi says:

    @dbeahn: Comcast tries to use the same argument if your OnDemand service doesn’t work. Problem is, these “free” services are not “free.”

    Free denotes no purchase necessary. Can you get OnDemand from Comcast without buying a digital cable package?

    Can you get non-ad supported email from AT&T without buying DSL? If you can, then your argument holds water.

    Incidentally, I did get Comcast to discount my bill for times when OnDemand wasn’t working…that is…before I cancelled Comcast for putting ads on the guide menu… If only there was an Adblock extension for TV.

  9. Tallanvor says:

    Yes, some people still use the email address their ISP provides, if only because they don’t necessarily know there’s anything better, or because the other options may not allow them to get their email using Outlook/Eudora/Thunderbird.

    Personally, I’ll stick with owning my own domain, and having a decent host for it. That way I can have as many addresses as I want without having to worry about whether or not they’ve been taken already.

  10. critical_matt says:

    I received the same email this morning. Yippee. I’ll just add it to the junk sender list I guess.

  11. Triteon says:

    @masterdave: No kidding. I have friends who refuse to switch away from Hotmail, Yahoo, NetZero, et. al to Gmail or other services even though they’ve had problems with their ISP email. I assume that because this requires effort it’s just not worth the investment of time.

  12. mac-phisto says:

    yahoo (which i believe is what at&t uses) is awesome! i send all my junk mail there!

  13. dragonflight says:

    @mopar_man: same here. I just get any email sent to my AT&T account forwarded to gmail.

  14. acceptablerisk says:

    Who doesn’t have a gmail account yet? It freakin’ tremendous and I understand they opened registration. Anyone still laboring under Hotmail or Yahoo Mail just needs to abandon ship and get a gmail account while the getting’s good.

  15. AcilletaM says:

    @mac-phisto: That’s exactly what I do too. Anything I think may end up with more spam/unwanted emails gets the yahoo address.

  16. Brian Gee says:

    @acceptablerisk: I don’t have a gmail. I have an old yahoo mail account that I don’t use anymore. It collects about 50 spams a day, not counting the ones yahoo filters into the “Bulk Mail” box. I stopped using it a couple of years ago and couldn’t be happier.

    Now I use my own domain on my own server, running Spamassassin. I thought about adding a Gmail, but I don’t really see the point.

  17. emax4 says:

    It sucks, but one way to show them that you’re frustrated is to send them your payment through the mail along with the Friday junk mail ads or Sunday flyers you get in the Sunday paper. They’ll have to have someone open up the envelope who will, like you, now be forced to rummage through various ads in order to get to the right content.

  18. tommac2005 says:

    Email is provided as an extra, thus they can put any ad/s they like in. I used to work for an ISP, and when I asked my manager for auth to give a refund for email outages, this is what I was told.

    You pay them for the Net access, not email, in most cases.

  19. AcidReign says:

    …..I have Bellsouth DSL, which is supposed to have merged with AT&T. I didn’t get any notification of this ad business. Of course, I did get them to stop spamming me years ago. I get almost nothing on that account. I haven’t given it out like my AOL address, which every spammer and con artist on the internet knows!

    …..I don’t think they’ll be able to commandeer my Thunderbird and make it show ads. If they’re talking about sticking an ad in the body of the email, that’s NOT COOL! We get enough of that crap from Yahoo Groups and the like. Can’t blame Yahoo for that one, though. It is free. What I do when I send an email to one of those groups is to end by hitting enter a bunch of times, and typing a few random letters at the bottom. This punts most of the advertising WAY down below my message, and to where the recipients will have to deliberately scroll down if they want to see it.

    …..AOL has ad servers in their 9.0 software, and there are banners everywhere. You can configure Thunderbird to go get AOL email, with a little bit of IMAP trickery. If you use’s web mail, ads get inserted in the text. One of my friends sends email like that from work, and every one is poisoned with that BS. So far, though, no ads in their regular email.

  20. fhic says:

    And of course, some of their ads are spectacularly inappropriate. I’ve been corresponding with a friend and her lawyer about another friend who died in a car crash, in her three-day-old car. For the past couple of weeks Yahoo mail has been tacking on an ad onto my friend’s Yahoo email:

    Ahhh…imagining that irresistible “new car” smell?
    Check out new cars at Yahoo! Autos.

    I don’t know whether it’s a coincidence, or an incredibly bad job of keyword-triggered advertising, but it still makes it pretty unlikely that I’ll be using Yahoo Autos to shop for my next new car.

  21. Buran says:

    My parents have AT&T DSL (I set it up for them and signed them up for the account initially).

    The Yahoo-provided email stopped working properly for them a few weeks ago. I switched them over to gmail which does work properly and also doesn’t include ads in the footer of every email sent, and Mom uses Apple Mail so she doesn’t see ads when using the service (but the ads are unobtrusive anyway).

    I also switched them just this past weekend from the $40 plan to the same plan on a monthly basis (their one-year contract had just expired) — for only $20 a month.

    Take THAT, suckers! You lost $20 a month AND a “customer” of your now-ad-laden crappy webmail.

  22. jaewon223 says:

    @dbeahn: That’s a good point you made about DVR and commercials on HBO, however, firefox adblock completely removes the ads so it’s not really the same thing. DVR you have to fastforward and it does interrupt watching your movies.

  23. Buran says:

    @fhic: You should send a complaint to Yahoo or sue them for insensitivity and emotional harm or something like that. Be a good American! :p

    (I’m sorry to hear that, though, seriously).

  24. royal72 says:

    thank god i dumped those douche bags a while ago and as soon as i can get outta my cingular/att contract, that’s gone as well. did i mention i really, really hate these pricks?

  25. typetive says:

    I’ve complained to yahoo … though I’m not the “person of record” who holds the account. (That’d be my husband who will also complain.)

    Yes, I can block the ads, but that’s not the point. It would be like HBO suddenly putting in commercials. If I’m paying for commercial free TV, then that’s what I should. If I wanted lots and lots of ads I’d go out and install some malware! Don’t tell me that this is helping to provide me the best online experience.

    But then again they’re putting ads on the tray tables on airplanes … so why should I be surprised? I’m buying transportation, but I’m getting ads. I’m buying a communication service, and now that’s an opportunity for more advertising.

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    To say that an ISP doesn’t charge for email is absurd. It’s part of a package of services demanded by the market. It’d be like saying, “I don’t watch Dexter so Showtime owes me $80.00 this year.”

    And yeah, it’s freaken obscene when they spam your service that you pay for.

    To fight this,
    * post exec contact numbers?
    * does this count as a change of terms of contract?
    * would threatening to quit make a difference?

    I’m not AT&T (though I’d go ballistic if Verizon started doing this). And sure, there are ways to bypass it, but that’s far from the point.

  27. AcilletaM says:

    @AcilletaM: Come to think of it, I think my Yahoo spam-catcher account is what I used when I signed up to Gawker…

  28. mac-phisto says:

    @tommac2005: i call bullshit. they advertise it as an extra, but you’re paying for it. they don’t offer “free” unlimited storage to non-at&t dsl yahoo mail customers. therefore, that service is inclusive in what you are receiving a bill for.

    i wish states would start regulating the advertisement of “free with membership” under the sweepstakes laws. either something is free or it is paid for. if something is free, then it cannot be offered as free w/ purchase. no purchase should be necessary to take advantage of the free service. this parallels a “giveaway” which is very similar to some sweepstakes & promotions.

    i remember this was a loophole in college for students to sell their football tix at exorbitant rates: “2 tix to osu/psu game FREE (with purchase of $300 12 oz. pepsi sculpture entitled empty).”

    this also gives them a back door for charging more for your currently “free” service in the future or withdrawing service completely.

  29. shdwsclan says:

    I use my comcast….but not for important things…

    My main account are from my university….that NEVER expires, even as an alumni, and my gmail..

  30. SexCpotatoes says:

    Wait, wasn’t pay cable tv supposed to be advertisement free? Y’know, back in the day, when they convinced everyone that they needed to pay for television service.

  31. ElizaBennet says:

    The number to call to complain is 1-800-288-2020. Tell them if you wanted advertisements with your e-mail you’d use gmail – which has a better interface than Remind them that the address has a .net ending – and that implies no ads.
    And finally let them know that even with the deal they will offer you (they knocked $10 off my monthly rate) they still are more expensive than local isps, but now that they’ve added advertisements, they’ve pretty much closed the gap in service level. Go to dsl reports to find out who is providing dsl locally. It helps to have those rates and speeds at your fingertips.

    Depending on what other services you buy from AT&T there are a number of deals to be made. They offered me 24 months of free satellite dish service, for example.

    Go complain – but make sure you focus on the ads – it is the one thing they can’t do anything about. At least not yet.

    And have your phone, isp and cable bills in front of you – the better to negotiate with.

    I’m still planning on leaving – I’ll take my local, long distance and isp business from them as soon as the ads arrive. But until then, they’ve taken quite a chunk out of my monthly bills.

  32. DILORENZOC says:

    How the hell can we let this happen. I pay over Twenty bucks a month for AT&T Yahoo and now they have taken over my mail page with ads. – ADS THAT I AM PAYING FOR. Does anyone know if there is an ADBLOCK for Internet Explorer?

  33. dkush21 says:

    I am having major problems with my att dsl running really slow. And it’s not only me, but my sister-in-law and friend who lives in the same area that are having slow page loadings and web browsing. It’s like we are using dial up and not high speed internet. I called att and my sister-in-law called also and we both get the runaround. Check this and that, it might be your mode, computer, filters, etc. because they run the test and the test is ok. Funny how several people are having the same issue in the same area. SBC was fine until ATT took over. Then all hell broke loose! First, ads, then Norton Anti Virus then slow connection and browsing. What next?????