Why AT&T's Plans To Filter The Internet Will Only Do More Harm To AT&T (And Everyone Else)

from the not-a-good-idea dept

AT&T announced last summer that it was going to start filtering traffic for copyrighted content -- so we're still not entirely sure why many in the press seem to think it was something new when discussed at CES a few weeks ago. However, this new burst of attention has many more people pointing out all the reasons this is bad for AT&T itself. As we said, this seems to make no sense at all, unless it's some bizarre attempt to come up with an excuse to get rid of net neutrality. In that post, we noted that any filtering would likely open up additional liabilities for AT&T, potentially losing its safe harbors from being a service provider (safe harbors that AT&T itself spent a lot of effort lobbying to have put into the law). Tim Wu has a lot more detail on that aspect of this plan (which he calls "corporate seppuku"). However, there are many other problems for AT&T as well. For example, it won't take long for someone to accuse AT&T of violating wiretap laws, a charge which may be accurate. But the biggest point is that this won't even do what they hope it will do. It won't stop unauthorized transfers from happening and it won't reduce network traffic. As we've discussed in the past, every move to do this kind of filtering will only drive up the market for encryption technologies, and that encryption actually adds more overhead to internet traffic. The PC World article linked above notes that 20% of all bittorrent traffic is encrypted, and if that number goes up, as it will under a filtering regime, the network load will only increase. So, if AT&T actually thinks (as it sometimes claims) that filtering will decrease the burden on the network, it's likely very mistaken.

Filed Under: encryption, filtering, liability, network neutrality
Companies: at&t


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  1. identicon
    Sham, 21 Jan 2008 @ 9:19am

    "Don't Tase me bro!"

    If the internet gets filtered, you can bet your ass its not just about revenue.
    This will effectively give control of the freedom (of information, speech, thought, religion, ..etc) that we got so used to and that became such an integral part of shaping this new millennium in such a short time, over to the same people that controlled the Media before the internet came along!

    You can complain about how much you miss downloading Movies, Music, Applications, porn, whatever, but in the end the real shame will be how they were able to pull the only last truly real venue for free speech right from under our noses.

    And no other time do we see that more relevant than this Election year, where the free flow of information over the internet is what seems to be driving the race (so is the war in Iraq, which is easily viewed online in the form of hundreds of amateur and professional videos), and is causing a record number of younger people participating in the polls.
    I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't want big brother filtering what they think I should or should not read. The internet should ALWAYS remain free.

    Filtering is simply the first step.

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