AT&T is stirring controversy by announcing that its U-verse GigaPower broadband service will provide extra privacy - for a fee.

Generally, the service price is $70 a month, but that includes something called 'Internet Preferences,' which means the company will show targeted ads based on the user's location, browsing history and other information. Exemption from those ads will cost you $29 a month, or almost $350 a year.

For example, suppose AT&T or another provider offered phone service where a basic landline costs X dollars a month, with an extra fee if you don't want anyone to listen to your calls, which will meet with howls of outrage.

Bell has also stirred controversy in Canada. Bell's relevant advertising program works similarly to AT&T's, although it does not charge for exemption (yet). It's up to individual subscribers to opt out of being included - the company consists of customers by default.

I don't think it's a bad idea. Even though privacy should be a fundamental right for everyone, and once was, offering it for a fee could be an excellent first step towards re-establishing that norm.

How long would it take for Facebook and others to follow suit if that happened?

It is unusual to think of paying more for privacy and requires a radical change in thinking, but in the end, if it prevents companies and governments from spying on us, it may not be a bad deal.