AT&T Exec Insists That No Broadband Company Is Violating Net Neutrality Even Though AT&T Is Absolutely Violating Net Neutrality
from the nothing-to-see-here dept
For a couple of years now, AT&T has been trampling net neutrality without much of anybody giving a damn. Like many ISPs eager to take full advantage of limited US broadband competition, AT&T imposes arbitrary and unnecessary usage caps and overage fees on its broadband lines. If you’re an AT&T broadband customer who uses more than 150 GB (DSL) to 1 terabyte (fiber) monthly, you’ll suddenly face having to pay $10 per each additional 50 gigabytes consumed. Again to be clear: there’s no technical reason for these limits to exist outside of nickel-and-diming captive customers.
While these caps have been in place for a while, a few years ago AT&T began eliminating these restrictions for its broadband customers if you use AT&T’s own streaming platforms. Use Netflix instead, and you’ll face a significantly higher broadband bill. This is by any measure a net neutrality violation because it allows AT&T to use its power as network operator to try and stake out a distinct advantage.
Speaking at Recode’s Code Media conference this week, AT&T President John Stankey was asked a bit about the potential for AT&T to abuse its power as newfound owner of both the content and the conduit. His response was fairly stunning:
“You’d be hard-pressed to point to an instance of anybody’s behavior that would suggest that there is any kind of discrimination, favoritism, or anything else going on in how people get to content on the Internet over a broadband connection,” Stankey said. “It’s a problem that’s non-existent. There’s absolutely nothing that’s occurring.”
Again, either Stankey doesn’t understand how his own products work, or he’s flat out lying. Hard to tell, since, as is usually the case at such conferences, nobody followed up with any pointed questions. Hell, AT&T pioneered the idea of “sponsored data,” which involves letting companies literally buy their way to network favoritism if they had enough cash. Under AT&T’s ideal model, if you pay AT&T enough cash, arbitrary restrictions (like usage caps) won’t apply to you.
Unsurprisingly, AT&T saw resistance to these kinds of playing-field tilting business models. In fact, the previous FCC was just gearing up to crack down on this kind of behavior when Trump was elected, Pai was appointed head of the FCC, and all meaningful rules on this front were quickly obliterated at AT&T’s request. Good times.
As the telecom sector has been known to do in recent months, Stankey then tried to brush aside any telecom monopoly concerns, and suggested those worried about predatory behavior look toward Google and Apple:
“Stankey would prefer that consumers direct their ire elsewhere. “I’d be far more concerned over the scale of what’s occurring in terms of distribution platforms on mobile OSes, in terms and conditions associated with new product development on that and what that does to squash innovation, than anything to do with how traffic over the Internet is being treated today,” he said”
The idea that telecom is an innocent angel and the only real threat to the internet comes from Silicon Valley has been a line the telecom sector has been pushing for a while, in large part because giants like AT&T want to elbow in on Facebook and Google’s online ad domination. Given the fact government is exploring saddling Silicon Valley with new regulations, penalties, and oversight (many justified) while dismantling all meaningful oversight of telecom should give you some insight into how well that gambit has been going.