AT&T Takes a Break From Decade-Long Effort to Dismantle Net Neutrality to Express Its Support for Net Neutrality

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In a remarkable display of bullshit, AT&T announced today that it’s joining tomorrow’s net neutrality protest—a “Day of Action” when a collection of tech companies will throw their weight behind an effort to block Trump’s FCC from rewriting the 2015 rules that protect net neutrality and the future of the open internet.

Major tech firms like Amazon and Google have signed on to participate in the Day of Action, organized by non-profit Fight for the Future. Why is it so bizarre to see AT&T protesting the rollback rules intended to prevent internet service providers from throttling traffic to particular websites and services? Because, as Techdirt notes, AT&T has spent over a decade fighting against net neutrality and stands to benefit from the collapse of the 2015 rules.

Here’s AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs Bob Quinn with an explanation of the company’s decision to “support” the protest.

This may seem like an anomaly to many people who might question why AT&T is joining with those who have differing viewpoints on how to ensure an open and free internet. But that’s exactly the point – we all agree that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas and commerce in the United States and around the world. We agree that no company should be allowed to block content or throttle the download speeds of content in a discriminatory manner. So, we are joining this effort because it’s consistent with AT&T’s proud history of championing our customers’ right to an open internet and access to the internet content, applications and devices of their choosing.


This is all, of course, quite disingenuous. The record shows that AT&T doesn’t have a “proud history” of supporting an open internet. AT&T’s then-CEO Ed Whitacre proudly proclaimed in 2005 that he wanted to charge internet companies like Google and Yahoo a toll to send data over AT&T infrastructure. “Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!” he told Bloomberg.

More recently, AT&T has lobbied against the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules and sued to get them overturned. “AT&T pretending to care about an open internet is like Dracula sudden professing a heartfelt concern for the plight of blood donors,” Techdirt’s Karl Bode writes.


In his post, Quinn calls on Congress to enact new net neutrality rules, rather than leaving rule-making to the FCC. Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman appointed by President Trump, has spearheaded an effort to squash the strict net neutrality rules enacted by his predecessor, Tom Wheeler, under the Obama administration.

[Techdirt; AT&T]