Has AT&T had a change of heart? Not likely, but it appears that the wireless carrier is asking for something it fought years to tear down.
CEO Randall Stephenson has posted an open letter asking Congress to write an “Internet Bill of Rights’ that would enforce “neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protections” for all American internet users. Stephenson added that they would not only defend consumer rights, but also establish “consistent rules of the road” that would give internet companies and telecoms an idea of where the future is headed in terms of internet regulations.
Stephenson has again insisted that AT&T has honored an open internet and continues to by not blocking, throttling or hinder any access to content. Here’s the issue with saying these types of statement: what the company isn’t saying.
United States already had protections for net neutrality in place, basically what Stephenson is asking for, but companies like AT&T and Verizon spent millions and years fighting net neutrality regulations. AT&T spent over $16 million in lobbying efforts in 2017 alone, and had maintained its anti-regulatory stance throughout the entire FCC repeal process until net neutrality was taken down. AT&T helped tear down net neutrality rules that were in place already, so why ask Congress to pass neutrality laws that are less likely to pass?
AT&T may be saying that it won’t block or slow any content, but that doesn’t mean it’s fighting for a strict level playing field either. Stepehnson’s open letter has no mention of the possibility of extra charges to speedy access, for example. Mind you, AT&T is one of the companies that forced Netflix into peering deals to ensure its traffic was smoothly delivered to its customers. AT&T is definitely playing some sort of game here, no one knows what exactly.