AT&T's Bogus 'Internet Bill Of Rights' Aims To Undermine Net Neutrality, Foist Regulation Upon Silicon Valley Competitors

from the sorry,-nobody-believes-you dept

As we’ve been warning for a while, the next phase in the war on net neutrality for giant ISPs is pushing a new “net neutrality law” in name only. ISPs are nervous that the FCC’s net neutrality repeal won’t survive a court challenge due to the numerous instances of fraud and other procedural gaffes. As such, they’ve convinced blindly-loyal lawmakers like Marsha Blackburn to push fake net neutrality legislation whose entire purpose is to prevent the FCC’s 2015 rules from being restored, or real, tough rules from being passed later.

These proposed “solutions” ban behaviors ISPs had no intention of doing (like the ham-fisted blocking of websites), but avoid addressing any of the numerous areas where net neutrality violations now occur, from usage caps, overage fees and zero rating, to interconnection shenanigans designed to drive up costs for streaming video competitors like Netflix. But with Democrats hoping to use net neutrality as a wedge issue in the coming midterms (and pushing for a repeal reversal via the CRA), these bogus solutions haven’t seen much traction outside of paid editorial support by telecom lobbyists.

Enter AT&T, who this week bought full-page ad space in the New York Times and Washington Post to publish this love letter from AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson to American consumers. In it, Stephenson proclaims that despite having spent millions trying to gut consumer protections of every color, the company is a breathless advocate for the “open internet,” and is really eager to lead the charge for “new laws that govern the internet and protect consumers”:

“But the commitment of one company is not enough. 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. Legislation would not only ensure consumers? rights are protected, but it would provide consistent rules of the road for all internet companies across all websites, content, devices and applications. In the very near future, technological advances like self-driving cars, remote surgery and augmented reality will demand even greater performance from the internet. Without predictable rules for how the internet works, it will be difficult to meet the demands of these new technology advances.

Of course if you’ve been following along at home, AT&T is the very last company that should be giving advice on any of these subjects. In recent years, AT&T has been fined $18.6 million for helping to rip off programs for the hearing impaired; $10.4 million for ripping off programs for low-income families; $105 million for helping “crammers” rip off its customers by making bills intentionally harder to understand, and for playing a starring role in gutting both net neutrality and broadband privacy protections.

AT&T’s also repeatedly violated net neutrality and consumer privacy, whether that entailed blocking FaceTime to drive wireless users to more expensive options, or exempting its own content from usage caps to give itself an unfair advantage in the market. And who could forget that time that AT&T was caught alongside Verizon covertly modifying user packets to track people around the internet without their knowledge? AT&T’s also smack dab in the middle of an effort to gut FCC, FTC and state authority over broadband providers.

Again, AT&T’s actual goal here is three-fold. One, get a shitty, loophole-filled net neutrality law on the books that would pre-empt efforts to restore the FCC’s 2015 rules or any Congressional or FCC attempt to pass real, tough rules down the line. Two, get a shitty net neutrality law on the books to supplant state efforts to protect net neutrality in the wake of AT&T-lobbied federal apathy. Three, impose new regulation on the likes of Google and Facebook as it attempts to buy Time Warner for $86 billion and jump into the Millennial advertising race.

AT&T has long complained that net neutrality and privacy rules applied to its broadband businesses aren’t fair because the same, exact rules aren’t being applied to the likes of Google and Facebook. But that argument ignores the fact that broadband is a uniquely broken market, where consumers often don’t have the choice of numerous ISPs. Net neutrality violations were just a symptom of limited competition, and net neutrality rules were a temporary band aid until somebody in government grows a spine and embraces policies that drive actual competition. AT&T, as you might have noticed, wants neither competition nor real oversight.

Unsrurpsingly, groups that actually fight for consumer welfare weren’t particularly impressed by AT&T’s head fake:

?It would be a lot easier to take AT&T at their word if they hadn’t spent more than $16 million last year alone lobbying to kill net neutrality and privacy protections for Internet users,? said Evan Greer, an activist with the pro-net neutrality group Fight for the Future. ?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.”

Keep in mind, Blackburn’s fake net neutrality law is likely just the first of many shitty legislative proposals you’ll see pushed by the mega-ISPs as they grow increasingly nervous the FCC’s ham-fisted repeal won’t survive court challenge. But you’ll be hard pressed to get AT&T to actually sign off on a net neutrality law that actually does much of anything useful, and net neutrality supporters will need to tread carefully before throwing their support behind “solutions” to problems the ISPs themselves created.

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Comments on “AT&T's Bogus 'Internet Bill Of Rights' Aims To Undermine Net Neutrality, Foist Regulation Upon Silicon Valley Competitors”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: With any luck...

“foisted upon their own petards” — Is not just typographical error, but drunken or doped kind. The phrase you flail at has “H” as in “hoist”, and not past tense “-ed”, either, and “with” not “upon”, because “petard” is an explosive sappers used. — Oh, and yes, I know what “petard” means in French, and I always pronounce the “d” cause no Frog is going to control MY speech.

Anonymous Coward says:

“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.”

We had all that, but the FCC got rid of it. Got rid of NN. Got rid of your right to privacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Unsrurpsingly", eh? What's unsurprising is another attack piece on ATT.

“due to the numerous instances of fraud and other procedural gaffes” — Which aren’t known to be fault of the FCC, ill-intententioned, nor will those affect a court judgment. For the thousandth time, those comments are NOT relevant. They’re just sampling for interest, not binding.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: New definitions left and right

So pointing out that AT&T has a demonstrable history of bad behavior, to the point that they have literally been fined millions for their actions, and as such can not be trusted is now classified as an ‘attack piece’, interesting.

Also, if your best defense of massive numbers of fraudulent comments is ‘they’re not legally binding’, you might as well just not go there at all, because that is beyond weak.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Flip Floppers

A thread of ACs and you say “Let’s give him…”

Why don’t you people who won’t sign their name enjoy your 1stAm given anonymity.

But you don’t get to give anyone an anything.
Toom1275 – not directed at you – but you’re just agreeing with a bunch of ACs.

Sign your name. Or be comfortable with anoymous speech. Don’t expect the winds of change to sign your name. Because you didn’t.


Anonymous Coward says:

“One, get a shitty, loophole-filled net neutrality law on the books that would pre-empt efforts to restore the FCC’s 2015 rules”

You mean to get even shittier, and more loophole-filled net neutrality law on the books than the already shitty FCC’s 2015 rules.

Its funny how you guys will act like these shitty rules are now awesome just because they are less shitty than the existing shitty rules. You guys really love your shit and are a shinning example of how fucking easy it is to fool you.

All I need to do to get you to like shit, is to bring even shittier shit than the shit I brought last time. Then you all of a sudden become happy with the old shit.

We are going to lose NN entirely because you clowns don’t even understand how to property fight it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The laws are not perfect no, but that doesn’t make them shitty.

Please tell us, what part of “no blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization; be transparent about what you are charging customers and why; and don’t collect or sell your customers’ data without them explicitly granting you permission to do so, and not by default as terms of service” do you find shitty or not agree with?

We’re all waiting to hear your answer.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It wasn’t shitty, it wasn’t vague, and it had no loopholes.

Not entirely accurate. What was there was pretty good, the problem it had were primarily focused on areas where it didn’t go far enough, namely the lack of a full prohibition against zero rating, instead going with a weaker ‘well we’ll review the cases as they come’.

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Its funny how you guys will act like these shitty rules are now awesome just because they are less shitty than the existing shitty rules."

It’s funny how you think blatantly lying about other peoples’ opinions makes for something resembling an argument. Nobody here has ever used the word awesome to describe the current rules, and there has been plenty of criticism of them while acknowledging they’re miles better than nothing.

"All I need to do to get you to like shit, is to bring even shittier shit than the shit I brought last time. Then you all of a sudden become happy with the old shit."

And that’s a perfectly normal reaction to any similar situation. If you were only allowed to eat bread and water, and then were denied even that, I’m pretty sure you’d really miss that damn bread and water. Again, this is a very lame excuse for an argument.

"We are going to lose NN entirely because you clowns don’t even understand how to property fight it."

And what exactly are you doing to fight it "properly"? For all this big-man talk you must surely be doing something to show up all up right? Or are you just another keyboard warrior like you think everyone else is?

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

These are not ISPs...

…and same for your other piece on cord-cutters.

Please stop using the word “ISP” when you mean “TELCO” or “Cable Company”. ISPs are companies that provide only Internet service, love net neutrality, don’t want to sell you TV service, and don’t care to invade your privacy.

Telcos and cable companies are just the opposite.

Please distinguish.



Anonymous Coward says:

Re: These are not ISPs...

I understand your frustration but ISPs are actually anyone who provides internet service, that does include telcos and cable companies.

Perhaps a better distinction should be made but ultimately they both qualify as ISPs.

And for NN discussions, the fact that some engage in bad behavior and others don’t is irrelevant. All ISPs have the capability to do those bad things. What NN says is that NO ISP should ever do those bad things.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: These are not ISPs...

Any company which provides access to the Internet is an Internet-service provider.

Some (nowadays, probably almost all) companies which do this also do other things, including providing services on / over the Internet.

This just means that they are also other things; it does not mean that they are not Internet-service providers.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: These are not ISPs...

Couldn’t be bothered to read other people’s comments before adding your own? Yet you want other people to read your comment. How precious of you.

Still you missed the point. Which had you read other comments you’d have seen among others:

Yes but ISP-ONLYS don’t do this.

It’s only the duopolies (that are also ISPs) that do this.

Yes, Sears did change out tires, and they are going out of business but that doesn’t mean “tire changing companies are going out of business.”


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 These are not ISPs...

As has been stated, they ARE ISPs. They are just not solely ISPs. The fact that they offer additional services doesn’t change the fact that they are ISPs.

And as you yourself stated, ALL ISPs should be subject to NN rules.

I’m really sorry that a few bad actors are giving all ISPs a bad name but that’s life. If you don’t like it then maybe you and all the other small ISPs should do something to fight back against the bad actors and change everyone’s perspective.

But trying to say that an ISP shouldn’t be called an ISP, just because they offer additional services isn’t helpful. Definitely point out that it’s only the big ISPs that do this bad stuff, that’s valid. But they are still ISPs, like it or not.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: These are not ISPs...

No, I read the other comments, but I felt it was still worth it to add my own. I considered responding to the other comment you mention, but it seemed clearly moving-the-goalposts enough that – particularly since I was running short on time before needing to leave for work – I didn’t think it needed to be responded to.

You’re the only person to have mentioned “ISP-ONLY”s. No one else seems to have been trying to talk about such an animal.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: These are not ISPs...

For that matter, here’s every occurrence of the term "ISP" in the article:

  • "giant ISPs" – clearly only talking about the big ones.
  • "ISPs are nervous", in the immediately following sentence – since the big ISPs are the ones cited in the previous sentence as taking action, this (explaining why they’re taking that action) is clearly referring to the same thing as the previous use of the term.
  • "ban behaviors ISPs had no intention of doing" – not only is this also soon enough after the previous mention to implicitly be talking about the same thing, presumably the little guys don’t intend to do these bad things either.
  • "consumers often don’t have the choice of numerous ISPs" – since there aren’t "numerous" big ISPs, clearly this must also include the small ones, but this also doesn’t say anything (good or bad) about the ISPs except that in many markets there aren’t a lot of them.
  • "the big ISPs plan has always been" – clearly and explicitly talking about the big ones.
  • "pushed by the mega-ISPs" – again, explicitly talking only about the big ones.

So… which of these usages were objectionably lumping small ISP-only companies in with the big conflict-of-interest multi-service conglomerates, again?

LadyElisabeth (profile) says:

AT&T Dirty Tricks

There’s something else that Karl and the rest of you need to know that’s just as important.

AT&T has been sabotaging the CRA resolution of Disapproval.

I have proof.

This comes directly from a tweet from Fight for the Future.

“IMPORTANT: Members of Congress are being flooded with phony tweets AGAINST the #NetNeutrality CRA. We traced them back to a “think tank” that gets big funding from AT&T. Contact your lawmakers RIGHT NOW and tell them not to fall for this astroturf!”

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