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AT&T Scam of the Week: Advocating for Fake Net Neutrality

After spending millions to kill net neutrality, AT&T today called on Congress to pass a new national law protecting AT&T’s idea of a free and open internet by regulating internet websites like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Full page newspaper ads taken out in several nationally known newspapers proclaimed AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson’s support for the first “Internet Bill of Rights,” conceived by some of the same lawyers and lobbyists AT&T paid to destroy the FCC’s net neutrality rules put into effect during the Obama Administration.

“Congressional action is needed to establish an ‘Internet Bill of Rights’ that applies to all internet companies and guarantees neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protection for all internet users,” Stephenson wrote in the ad.

AT&T’s proposal would attempt to include content regulation of websites under the guise of fairness, claiming that while internet service providers are expected to treat all content fairly, large websites like Google and Facebook currently do not. Critics of AT&T’s proposal call that a distraction that has nothing to do with ISPs seeking the right to establish paid internet fast lanes and favoring partnered websites with exemptions from data caps or speed throttles.

AT&T doesn’t inform readers of its own complicity in the “confusion” over net neutrality policies that have faced constant legal and political challenges from AT&T and other telecom companies. The telecom industry has furiously lobbied Congress and regulators to keep net neutrality from taking effect. Once it did, AT&T took the FCC to court to overturn the rules.

AT&T wants their own law for their own version of net neutrality.

AT&T’s campaign comes with some urgency as the company works to block states from enacting their own net neutrality laws to replace the rules abandoned by the Republican majority controlling the FCC. Despite assurances from FCC chairman Ajit Pai that the Commission would sue to pre-empt any state law that would re-establish net neutrality, AT&T and other large cable and phone companies prefer the regulatory certainty available from the quick passage of a federal law that would establish AT&T’s definition of net neutrality indefinitely. AT&T is also trying to rush passage with support from Republican congressional majorities and President Trump before the midterm elections threaten a Democratic takeover of the House, Senate, or both.

AT&T attempted to assuage customers of its good intentions by claiming it doesn’t block websites.

“We don’t censor online content. And we don’t throttle, discriminate, or degrade network performance based on content, period,” AT&T wrote (emphasis ours). But that claim opens the door to important loopholes:

  1. Speed throttles, data caps, and zero rating do not impact network performance. They impact your ability to equally access internet content, something AT&T does not promise here.
  2. AT&T only claims it won’t interfere with websites based on their content, but that was never the premise ISPs have used to demand additional payments from content creators. It isn’t the content ISPs are concerned with — it is the traffic those websites generate and, in the eyes of many net neutrality supporters, whether those websites compete with an ISPs own offerings. AT&T could have said it doesn’t throttle, discriminate, or degrade websites, period. But it didn’t.

AT&T alarmingly suggests that without predictable rules, next generation applications like virtual reality, telemedicine, and the Internet of Things will be threatened. Except that is not the message AT&T gives shareholders, arguing AT&T has robust capacity both now and into the future for next generation applications. AT&T has long promoted how lucrative it expects the Internet of Things marketplace will be.

Allowing the telecom industry to write its own “Internet Bill of Rights” met with harsh criticism from the consumer groups AT&T claims it wants to enlist in its efforts.

“Zero real net neutrality supporters are fooled by this,” wrote Fight for the Future executive director Evan Greer. “We had an Internet Bill of Rights. It was called Title II and AT&T’s army of lobbyists did everything in their power to burn it down.”

“AT&T’s hypocrisy knows no bounds,” said Free Press policy director Matt Wood. “Its phony bill of rights argument makes no sense based on the law, the policies, or the politics in play. AT&T’s head fake towards one-size-fits-all rules for all websites and content providers should fool no one. As soon as AT&T wants to stop lobbying against net neutrality, broadband privacy, and the other rights it has worked to kill at the Trump FCC and in this Congress, maybe people will stop laughing at desperate tactics like this. For now, all we can do is point out the company’s audacity in pretending that this hyper-partisan Congress can step in to fill the void of the net neutrality repeal by writing a new law tailor-made for AT&T.”

Currently there are 7 comments on this Article:

  1. Josh says:


    Are there any of the cell phone companies that AREN’T evil?

  2. EJ says:

    The last statement in this article holds know water what so ever. Telesurgery will not, I repeat will not, and I mean will not be done over the same network as the internet. He knows that and he also knows (at least I hope if he is a CEO of AT&T) that we already have the technology to divide things like telesurgery out into its own lane without breaking net neutrality laws. The issue is not the internet when it comes to that stuff it is the last mile. Do you want your fate in the hands of a copper fed Metro-E system because you are having surgery done in a legacy AT&T market? I will answer that for you hell no you don’t. So it isn’t the network stupid it is the infrastructure. O wait you already know that and are just attempting to mislead the public to get what you want. SHOCKER!!!!!

    As for driverless cars it is going to be the job of the key players of that industry to make that happen. Whether that is by making a deal with a major wireless carrier to set aside spectrum just for driverless or for them to jump into the game themselves. Wireless companies are never and I mean never going to set aside enough bandwidth within there public network to make it so driveless cars can talk to each other. So either the cars will talk to each other over a short wave system that is more like a LAN or as I said a system will have to be built separate from the internet. I honestly believe that the LAN type system is more probable and doable. The cars will create a hive like communication system to read the road conditions and each other. The internet will only be used as a secondary system for ahead of you road conditions and that system is already in place and being done with no real issues.

    As for the IOT the ISPs are just going to have to suck it up and do what they need to do to supply the bandwidth needed so your fridge can talk to you and say your out of milk or whatever.

    • His entire claim about IoT traffic is bogus because there is every indication this traffic will be extremely compact and have little/no impact on wireless networks. A lot of the IoT applications out there now were designed to work with nothing better than 3G networks (some even less than that). Because responsiveness will be key, the more compact the data traffic, the better. I also agree that car-to-car data communications for accident avoidance and other sensing technology will probably be local from car to car and not require a cell tower. Some type of mesh technology would probably work well in more dense traffic situations. But since this information is relevant to a very small area, there is no reason to send this kind of data further on. Other technologies/apps can return traffic information to a larger network/audience using traditional 4G LTE service (ie. Waze, etc.) without any trouble.

      AT&T and Verizon are both aggressively selling their networks for machine to machine communications, promoting their fact they have tons of capacity. Somehow, they don’t tell potential clients the alarmist rhetoric found in Stephenson’s newspaper letter.

  3. JayS says:

    From above: “AT&T could have said it doesn’t throttle, discriminate, or degrade websites, period. But it didn’t.”

    It would seem that just one sentence should be the entirety of any Net Neutrality Law: “ISP’s can NOT throttle*, discriminate*, or degrade* websites; * and additional sentences to delineate explicit definitions of these terms .

    Competition, is always better for the consumer than ANY legislation could ever aspire to be. Hopefully, we will see some fixed 5G and LEO satellite internet deployment before the dystopian governing class writes Act II of Net Neutrality.

    • Limboaz says:

      Yes, competition IS better than legislation, in most cases. On that note, and something I haven’t seen mentioned on this site which is weird, CenturyLink is offering a new small business plan @ $65/month, WITH NO DATA CAP. It is a “small business” Internet plan, but I believe it is available to everyone. In my area, speeds go up to 140 Mbps which is GREAT. Century link seems like a viable competitor now to Comcrap and other cable fat-cats with the added (massive) network capacity of level 3.

      • EJ says:

        Centrulink is not a viable alternative for everyone. I personally don’t live in a Centurylink area, but my girlfriend does. Top speed 3 3Meg which means she is either working on a really long loop from the CO or a crappy out of date remote. Either way that is not competition and they are not going to improve that area anytime soon I am sure. She is basically stuck with the cable provider Mediacom which has its own issues in her area. Mediacom just rolled out new minimum plans. So her lowest plan is a 60 Meg plan for $79.99. Many of you will look at that and say hell that isn’t bad, but we live in the midwest where the median income is 57,000 a year and she lived in a town with less then 20,000 which drives the median income down even more. Miediacom has a basic monopoly in her area and in most of her town so they charge basically whatever they want. So welcome to the midwest, land of legacy garbage copper and very, very, very limited competition. Luckily I live in a fiber to the home COOP, but it has no competition at all so the prices are also a little high. I pay $72 for 25/25, but of course will get some of that back in 10 years. COOP’s are just another scam just in a different way. So that is why you probably haven’t seen that mentioned to much on this site. In some areas is a phone company true competition for a cable company, absolutely. Is that for the lion share of the country, no. Heavily populated areas have some competition while less populated places are hung out to dry. With all that said duopolies are not competition either. That is just one guy having to be just little better then the other in one way or the other. For phone companies it generally price, for cable it is speed.

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