AT&T rolls out ad push for net neutrality law that covers tech companies

AT&T, a beneficiary of the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules, is urging Congress to write a federal net neutrality law.

In full-age ads in major U.S. newspapers Wednesday, the telecom giant’s CEO, Randall Stephenson, calls for an “internet bill of rights” — and says tech giants should be regulated, too.

Stephenson says AT&T doesn’t block or censor websites, nor does it throttle, discriminate or “degrade network performance based on content.” He did not mention paid prioritization — the creation of fast lanes — though.

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He also says that as technology continues to advance, we need 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.”

Before the FCC voted in December to repeal net neutrality rules adopted in 2015, the telecom giants insisted that they support net neutrality, the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally.

But anyone who has followed the history of net neutrality knows the telecom giants’ actions over the years have shown otherwise. Let’s take AT&T, for example. The FCC proposed a $100 million fine against the company in 2015, accusing it of throttling what supposedly was unlimited data.

“Internet activists have been warning for months that the big ISPs plan has always been to gut the rules at the FCC and then use the ‘crisis’ they created to ram through bad legislation in the name of ‘saving’ net neutrality,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, in a statement Wednesday.

“We had an Internet bill of rights,” Greer said. “It was called Title II and AT&T’s army of lobbyists did everything in their power to burn it down.” Net neutrality rules classified broadband providers as telecom companies under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

As for Stephenson’s call for internet companies to be regulated like telecom companies, critics of equating the two industries have long pointed out that no matter how dominant tech companies such as Google and Facebook might be, the telecom companies control the pipes that internet traffic travels through.

 

Photo by Associated Press

 

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