AT&T: Anti-Discrimination Rule Could Hinder Innovation

A hard and fast rule that prohibits Internet service providers from discriminating between content providers could "inadvertently limit the availability of creative and innovative services that consumers may want to purchase," AT&T argues in its latest statement about proposed neutrality regulations.

In a letter submitted today to the Federal Communications Commission, the telecom argues that ISPs and Web companies should be free to enter into "voluntary" agreements "for the paid provision of certain value-added broadband services."

AT&T adds that rather than a "strict nondiscrimination" rule, the FCC should instead focus on "unreasonable and anticompetitive" forms of discrimination.

Broadband advocates were unimpressed with the telecom's stance. "AT&T has tried to draw what is an imaginary line among types of discrimination," Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said in a statement. "The company advised the FCC that while 'unreasonable' discrimination can be banned, any discrimination caused by 'voluntary commercial agreements' is just fine because the parties involved agreed to it. That is nonsense."



Derek Turner, research director at Free Press, adds that allowing ISPs to charge for prioritization could "lock in market giants" because those are the companies most likely to afford the fees.

Prioritization, he warns, is a zero-sum game because giving priority to one packet degrades others.

Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott likewise criticized the telecom's position. "After leading a rabid anti-Net Neutrality lobbying campaign for years, AT&T now submits a letter to the Federal Communications Commission purporting to offer common ground. What they are proposing would allow them to violate the core principle of Net Neutrality -- letting them control the Internet by picking winners and losers in a pay-for-play scheme."

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