Feeds

AT&T reluctantly adopts net neutrality

The sky hasn't fallen

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

The US's largest internet provider has enshrined the principle of internet neutrality in an agreement to treat all web traffic equally. The move has reignited the debate about net neutrality.

AT&T's agreement comes as part of a merger deal with Bell South Communications (SBC). The agreement was a condition of the Federal Communications Commission's approval of the $86 billion deal and reverses the position of the telco.

SBC chief executive Ed Whitacre effectively began the net neutrality controversy just over a year ago when he said that major internet companies were 'nuts' if they thought he would continue to carry their traffic for free to consumers' homes.

But now it is the merged AT&T/SBC business which has provided a model which others may have to follow in how to guarantee neutrality.

Whiteacre is now head of the merged firm and has agreed not to sell premium access to homes for a period of two years. Though there are some caveats to the commitment it could set a precedent which other firms may be encouraged, or even ordered, to follow.

"AT&T/BellSouth commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband internet access service," said a letter to the FCC from Robert Quinn, senior vice president of AT&T's regulatory division.

"This commitment shall be satisfied by AT&T/BellSouth's agreement not to provide or to sell to internet content, application or service providers, including those affiliate with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wireline broadband internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination," said the letter.

AT&T said that it still opposed net neutrality in principle, and there are some exceptions to the rule. It will not apply to the high speed internet television (IPTV) service planned by the company, or to other similar services that it might develop. The company is also free to change its behaviour after two years, unless a law is passed in the meantime outlawing preferential treatment of data.

Activists, though, hailed what they saw as a milestone. "AT&T capitulated to supporters of an open and neutral Internet," said Ben Scott of the SavetheInternet.com Coalition. "The agreement once and for all puts to rest the bogus argument that no one can define Net Neutrality. The FCC just did it, and the sky hasn't fallen. The conditions placed on this merger will show irrefutably that net neutrality and phone company profits are not mutually exclusive."

Whitacre had started the debate in late 2005. Alarmed at the amount of investment needed to keep applications such as video and games coming into homes at fast enough speeds, he suggested creating a separate, fast service for companies that were prepared to pay his telco for guaranteed fast delivery.

The comments caused outrage amongst internet activists who said that what made the internet unique and valuable was the fact that it was essentially free and that all information was treated equally for network transport purposes.

They said that telcos were paid by consumers to deliver all information for a monthly fee, not to set up additional toll booths for their own gain.

A law enforcing net neutrality was defeated in the US Congress last year, but the make up of Congress has changed significantly since autumn elections and legislation may be reintroduced, political observers said.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?