A US politician blasted plans by AT&T to deploy ad-funded tariffs, calling for it to scrap a tactic he argued would force low-income consumers to choose between a vital service and privacy.

In a letter to AT&T CEO John Stankey, Senator Richard Blumenthal labelled the idea as an effort to “legitimise more intrusion into consumers’ lives and more aggressively commoditise subscribers”. He warned it would create a “pay-for-privacy” standard in the telecoms market, making it “a right exclusive to the rich”.

“In holding out nominal discounts in exchange for the intrusive surveillance and aggressive monetisation of private information, AT&T is manipulatively pitting consumers’ welfare and privacy against constrained budgets.”

Blumenthal is a member of a Congressional committee which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and has jurisdiction over legislation related to communications matters.

He asked Stankey to share further detail about how it would monitor and advertise to consumers on such tariffs, and how it might combine subscriber data with information from its Xander advertising unit.

The letter comes days after Stankey floated the idea of ad-subsidised tariffs in an interview with Reuters, noting it could offer consumers a $5 to $10 discount on their monthly bill in exchange for viewing targeted adverts.