A reader sent us a letter that AT&T sent to its employees asking them to tell the FCC they oppose net neutrality. This comes after the FCC announced plans to investigate and enact net neutrality rules that will ensure that internet service providers (like AT&T) treat all content equally. The letter and a rebuttal are inside.
Here is the letter from AT&T:
Let your voice be heard: Internet regulation is bad for consumers, jobs, investment and universal broadband
TO: All U.S.-based managers
Over the last few weeks an extraordinary number of voices expressed concern over news reports that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to regulate the Internet in a manner that would drive up consumer prices, and burden companies like ours while exempting companies like Google. According to The Washington Post, the FCC has received a dozen letters from Republican and Democratic governors, a letter signed by 18 Republican senators, and a letter sent by 72 Democratic members of Congress. In addition, letters expressing serious concerns were sent by many state legislators and minority groups, and our union partners, CWA and the IBEW.
We encourage you, your family and friends to join the voices telling the FCC not to regulate the Internet. It can be done through a personal email account by going to http://www.openinternet.gov and clicking on the “Join the Discussion” link.
The FCC has extended the period for receiving comments by allowing postings to its blog until Thursday, October 22nd. Those who seek to impose extreme regulations on the network are flooding the site to influence the FCC. It’s now time for you to voice your opinion!
In addition to your own thoughts, any of the following points can be used when you develop your brief blog comments.
- America’s wireless consumers enjoy the broadest range of innovative services and devices, lowest prices, highest usage levels, and most choices in the world. Why disrupt a market that’s working so well?
- There is fierce competition for wireless and broadband customers. Competition drives innovation and encourages companies to develop products, services and applications that consumers want. There’s been more innovation in this market than in any since the World Wide Web was introduced. The market is working for consumers. Don’t burden it with unnecessarily harmful regulations.
- Network companies have to be able to manage their networks to ensure the most economical and efficient use of bandwidth, and provide affordable broadband services for all users. Network management is essential for consumers to enjoy the benefits of new quality-sensitive applications and services. The FCC rules should not stop the promise of life-changing, cost-saving services such as telemedicine that depend on a managed network.
- The “net neutrality” rules as reported will jeopardize the very goals supported by the Obama administration that every American have access to high-speed Internet services no matter where they live or their economic circumstance. That goal can’t be met with rules that halt private investment in broadband infrastructure. And the jobs associated with that investment will be lost at a time when the country can least afford it.
- The FCC shouldn’t burden an industry that is bringing jobs and investment to the country, but if it is going to regulate the Internet it should do so fairly. The goal of the FCC should be to maintain a level playing field by treating all competitors the same. Any new rules should apply equally to network providers, search engines and other information services providers.
Thank you in advance for taking action that supports our customers, our company, and our country’s commitment to ensure that every American has access to broadband.
Senior Executive Vice President – External and Legislative Affairs
Well, let’s break that down. First off, the FCC’s contemplated action would be “exempting companies like Google” because the rules are directed at the ISPs, not at the content providers. AT&T, Comcast, et al are the subject of the regulation, companies like Google, who produce the content that consumers access via the internet, aren’t. You could just as easily say it would “exempt companies like Craigslist, or Gawker, or Meatspin.”
In response to AT&T’s offered talking points:
- “Why disrupt a market that’s working so well?” The market is currently operating under net neutrality principles, albeit principles with little force of law behind them. Net neutrality has been the operating norm of the Internet since its inception; it’s only recently that ISPs have discovered there’s money to be made in ransoming certain content.
- “Competition drives innovation and encourages companies to develop products, services and applications that consumers want . . . . The market is working for consumers. Don’t burden it with unnecessarily harmful regulations.” You know what doesn’t encourage companies to develop products, services, and applications that consumers want? Making them pay an ISP for the privilege of even showing their content to consumers. A great part of the internet is the low cost of entry for new ideas and products. Forcing start-ups to buy access to a customer base could kill the next big idea.
- “Network companies have to be able to manage their networks… The FCC rules should not stop the promise of life-changing, cost-saving services such as telemedicine that depend on a managed network.” The FCC, which hasn’t announced concrete rules yet and won’t be until the completion of a lengthy factfinding process, has already indicated that in some circumstances network management may be necessary and would be allowable, provided it was done in a transparent manner. Telemedicine has in fact been used as an example where such management might be needed.
- “[Net neutrality rules would] halt private investment in broadband infrastructure. And the jobs associated with that investment will be lost at a time when the country can least afford it.” First, content providers, like Google, YouTube, or Facebook, also employ people. Limiting the content that can travel through the internet would also risk losing jobs. But more importantly, there is no evidence that net neutrality would discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. Indeed, from 2006 to 2008, AT&T has had net neutrality rules imposed on it as a condition of its merger with BellSouth. As this article points out, “AT&T’s network investments increased immediately following the imposition of the Net Neutrality merger condition and continued to rise over the two years of the merger agreement. When the neutrality condition expired on Dec. 29, 2008, the company sharply reduced its investment.”
- “If [the FCC] is going to regulate the Internet it should do so fairly . . . . Any new rules should apply equally to network providers, search engines, and other information services providers.” This is gibberish. Search engines don’t transmit content; they can’t, for instance, block torrent files. Only the tube owners like Comcast and AT&T can block or discriminate against content.
Now on Sale at the AT&T Store: Anti-Net Neutrality Propaganda [Public Knowledge]
AT&T Boss Asks Employees to Fake It [Save The Internet]