*Imagine Mark Zuckerberg and his buddies paying for your data plan.

Say you download the Facebook app, you don’t have to think about it consuming too much bandwidth, since you won’t be paying for it anyway.

On Monday, AT&T introduced a new billing program called Sponsored Data. It’s a subsidized program where wireless app developers would be so grateful that you bought their app, they would pick up the tab for you to use it.

Under the program a content or service provider would pay AT&T to exempt their app, websites, or even specific bits of content from consumers’ mobile data plans. Anytime someone consumed such exempted content on the mobile network, AT&T customers wouldn’t see it deducted from their data buckets. Instead, AT&T would subtract that data from a kind of universal data pool bought by the content provider.

This thoughtfulness by AT&T kind of makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside right?

Not so fast.

This company has been around for a long time and money is their business. They’re no dummies.

The boys in the back room have now come up with a new way to awaken a sleeping giant.

And tech-savvy website Gigaom has got their number.

They know that AT&T has been working overtime to “monetize its pipes” and may have finally found a way to charge the likes of Facebook, Spotify and startups offering bandwidth-heavy applications for the privilege of sending their bits over Ma Bell’s cellular network.

So “we” were not their true motivation. Jus’ sayin’.

Meanwhile Ma Bell provides several positive examples about how this model could be used not only to spare its customers’ data plans, but also give developers more opportunities to expose their content to the public.

Read more about this innovative move at Gigaom.