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AT&T Agrees to Net Neutrality Conditions

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Friday December 29, 2006

Harold Feld (and then the MSM) notes that AT&T has agreed to a series of new conditions in order to obtain approval for its proposed merger with BellSouth. Of greatest interest is the fact that the conditions include some very explicit net neutrality conditions:

AT&T/BellSouth also commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service. 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 affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrates or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wirelines broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination.

The commitment is good for two years from the effective date of the AT&T/BellSouth merger or the effective date of any net neutrality legislation that addresses the same issues.  Seeing this put into place is reminiscent of the Sony rootkit case, where Sony agreed to many of the conditions on its use of DRM that advocates believe should be enshrined in law.  From a Canadian perspective, the question is simple - notwithstanding the absence of a regulatory sword, will the major telcos and cable co's pledge to adopt the same conditions?

Update: Far more analysis on the commitment with praise from Wu and Isenberg, and criticism/concern from Crawford, Werbach, and Burstein.   

Comments (4)add comment

Rob Hyndman said:

...
Techdirt notes that they may have done so with their fingers crossed:

[ link ]
December 29, 2006

Mark Goldberg said:

Keeping options open
There are a bunch of exclusions that AT&T has carved out, including the ability to discriminate on entire classes of service and its own IPTV service. I have a discussion of these at [ link ]
December 29, 2006

Kevin said:

Baby Steps
In Canada we already have, but don't enforce Net Neutrality.

Section 36 of the act states that you must not influence the purpose of communications carried.

That AT&T has decided to play nice in order to 'get something', is just selling short. Two years down the road, you've got less choice, and still don't have a neutral net.

This isn't an issue that can be solved by the ISP's promising to play nice so they can consolidate even more -- unless they promise to play nice forever.

Section 36 is being violated in Canada.

We have Telus blocking third party SMTP services on it's networks, forcing Telus subscribers to use their mail service and eliminating any opportunity for premium SMTP services. This would seem to violate Section 36.

Next you've got Shaw, creating queue-jumping services, that in so doing, artificially delay other packets. They're trying to sell it as something extra, when in reality, bandwidth is a starvation economy, and those who pay for higher tiers, do so at the direct expense of those who don't. Artifical delay in this manner would seem to violate Section 36.

What we really need is a CRTC that is not a group of telecom gladhanders and fewer dirty MPs like Bev Oda. The framework is there, all we need is a few good representatives to stand up for the consumer.

We need to enforce Section 36, and pass more laws that clarify the explicit meaning of this fundamental principle.

Until then, we really need to stop the consolidation, as the sole reason net neutrality is such a problem, is that there is insufficient choice in the market place.
December 29, 2006

Brent said:

...
From "You ain't usin' ma pipes for free!" to "Look at all these ways we're cooperating!"?

Yeah, right. This is a token effort at best.
December 29, 2006

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