AT&T and other internet service providers spent millions upon millions of dollars lobbying against net neutrality in the lead up to the Federal Communications Commissions’ vote to reclassify it as a Title I utility, effectively giving ISPs much more power over how the internet works. Now, AT&T seems to be trying to claim credit for being a pro-net-neutrality provider by calling on Congress to pass new neutrality laws.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson proposed the so-called “Internet Bill of Rights” in a series of full-page ads in large newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times, and in a blog post on the AT&T website. In the letter, Stephenson argued that new net neutrality laws would not only protect consumer rights, but would also establish more “consistent rules of the road” for ISPs and tech companies. Until that happens, Stephenson says that AT&T will honor an open internet without blocking, throttling, or hindering access to content online.
Of course, AT&T may claim that it’s committed to an open internet, but it, along with the likes of Verizon and Comcast, spent years fighting against net neutrality. AT&T alone spent a whopping $16 million lobbying against net neutrality in 2017, and as a report from Engadget notes, while the company argues that the FCC’s regulation changes depending on which party is in power, AT&T is also arguing for stricter rules at a time when Congress is far less likely to pass net neutrality laws given its makeup.
It’s also possible that AT&T is worried about how states will treat net neutrality. One blanket federal law that benefits ISPs will be much easier to deal with than dozens of state laws that may or may not favor the company depending on which state it is. The FCC has said that it will take states to court if they try to circumvent its decisions, but companies like AT&T have no guarantees that will work.
Further, AT&T said that laws should prevent blocking and throttling of websites — and made no mention of whether or not ISPs should be able to speed up content based on being paid off from tech companies. That’s kind of a big deal — and its one of the things that net neutrality advocates fear could start happening.
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