[Update: AT&T has released an official statement with some clarification about the open letter shared yesterday and paid prioritization. Read the full statement below.]
AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson has today shared an open letter titled Consumers Need an Internet Bill of Rights. In the letter, Stephenson shares his ideas for how to “end the debate [on net neutrality] once and for all” and states that AT&T is “committed to an open Internet.” Meanwhile, critics are voicing their opinions…
While the FCC’s decision was finalized in a 3-2 vote to repeal net neutrally last month, the debates and lawsuits have just begun. The latest development in the story was an investigation starting by the Government Accountability Office.
AT&T’s Randall Stephenson believes that it is precisely because of debates like these that Congress needs to create new laws “that govern the Internet and protect consumers.”
Speaking on behalf of AT&T, Stephenson says:
AT&T is committed to an open internet. We don’t block websites. We don’t censor online content. And we don’t throttle, discriminate, or degrade performance based on content. Period.
Interestingly enough, there isn’t any mention of paid prioritization or paid fast lanes, which is a primary concern for those who supported the now repealed net neutrality rules.
Stephenson would also like for new rules to include web companies along with ISP’s. While there may be the need for rules for both, many believe the two shouldn’t be conflated. Here’s how The Verge describes the differences:
There’s a big distinction between how these different types of companies collect information on users: Facebook and Google can only see data that touches their sites and services, but ISPs like AT&T will see subscribers’ data no matter what since all internet traffic has to pass through them.
AT&T has also placed ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post which has seemingly created even more controversy.
Meanwhile, in an humorous and strange move, Burger King has jumped in to the net neutrality debate today with a new ad that features a metaphor for paid fast lanes. The new video spoofs paid prioritization by offering different levels of Whopper delivery speeds (Mbps = making burgers per second).
While the new ad is likely more about leveraging net neutrality as a handy marketing tool to youth, Burger King has also seemingly educated more people on the topic. As mentioned by Recode, one Burger King guest said “I didn’t think ordering a Whopper would really open my eyes to net neutrality!”
An AT&T spokesperson shared the following statement with 9to5Mac:
The purpose of today’s open letter calling for an Internet Bill of Rights was to begin a dialog on a comprehensive framework for basic consumer protections on the internet that applies to all internet companies.
For new technologies, such as self-driving cars, remote surgery and augmented reality, to work, a higher level of internet performance is required. If you’re in a self-driving car, buffering or data delays are not an option. As it relates to prioritization specifically, we don’t know what the ultimate answer is. We want to have a dialog about it with other internet companies and consumer groups, so that Congress is considering all angles as they begin to write the rules of the road on how the internet works, particularly for new innovation and invention, like self-driving cars or augmented reality.
Working collaboratively with Congress, we believe we can develop the right set of policies to accomplish all of these goals.