How a single Internet provider could end up making money off you several times over

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AT&T's recently announced deal to acquire Time Warner reflects massive changes in media and technology. Although regulators could challenge the acquisition or slap conditions on it that may limit how AT&T can use its new assets, the purchase hints at a future where a single company can monetize the same customer multiple times over, just through the customer's routine use of the Internet. If AT&T succeeds — and that's still a big if — it will be that much closer to turning its subscribers into virtual cash machines, going to them over and over to grow its revenue base. Here are a few ways that could work:

Sell connectivity: At its core, AT&T is a network company. Its main job until now has been to sell you access to communications, such as phone or Internet service. These services act as conduits to the information or media you can find once you're hooked as a subscriber.
Sell content: On top of selling you the network, companies such as AT&T increasingly want to sell you the content that travels over those networks — including shows like “Game of Thrones” or “Westworld.”
Sell advertising: This is the big one. Advertising, particularly of the targeted variety, forms the cornerstone of the entire Internet economy. And Internet providers want a big slice of it.
Sell your data: A company, such as AT&T, could put your data to work for its own advertising business. But it could also benefit by sharing your data with marketing firms and other third parties who can use that information themselves.


How a single Internet provider could end up making money off you several times over