AT&T Pledges Commitment to Open Internet Following FCC Vote to Repeal Net Neutrality

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson shared an open letter today on the topic of Net Neutrality, pledging that the company is "committed to an open internet" following the Federal Communications Commission's vote last month to repeal Net Neutrality.

In the letter, Stephenson said that AT&T does not block websites, censor online content, or throttle, discriminate, and degrade network performance based on a website's contents.

According to Stephenson, AT&T has committed to the support of an open internet "for over 10 years," and will continue to do so. Furthermore, he urged Congress to pen new laws to govern the internet and protect customers, putting an end to the ongoing change in rules and regulations placed on the internet. Stephenson called this the "Internet Bill of Rights."
But the commitment of one company is not enough. Congressional action is needed to establish an “Internet Bill of Rights” that applies to all internet companies and guarantees neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protection for all internet users.

Legislation would not only ensure consumers’ rights are protected, but it would provide consistent rules of the road for all internet companies across all websites, content, devices and applications. In the very near future, technological advances like self-driving cars, remote surgery and augmented reality will demand even greater performance from the internet. Without predictable rules for how the internet works, it will be difficult to meet the demands of these new technology advances.
Under the repeal of Net Neutrality, internet service providers are reclassified from "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, to "information service" providers, which they had been previously between 1996 and 2015. This caused worry among Net Neutrality supporters, because companies like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and more will be legally allowed to block or slow down access to certain websites, or even charge access to sites.

While the FCC is still in the stages of finalizing the repeal of Net Neutrality, lawsuits have emerged aiming to stop the rollback of these rules and ensure that Net Neutrality remains. In the months ahead of the vote, Apple urged the FCC not to repeal Net Neutrality, which includes regulations that prevent "paid fast lanes" on the internet.

As pointed out by Recode, online fast lanes and "paid prioritization" are a few topics missing from Stephenson's letter. This aspect of Net Neutrality prevents an ISP -- like AT&T -- from charging websites more so that users can gain access to that site at a faster rate, while sites that can't afford the increased cost would see slow load times for users, leading to "fast lanes" and "slow lanes." When asked about the topic, AT&T pointed towards previous public posts where it discussed support of banning forms of paid prioritization over the years.

In the new letter, Stephenson ended by stating AT&T will work with Congress, other internet providers, and consumer groups this year in an attempt to move forward with its "Internet Bill of Rights" in hopes of "permanently" protecting the open internet.

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New York Attorney General Leads Filing of Multi-State Lawsuit to Block Rollback of Net Neutrality

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this afternoon announced that he and 22 other Attorneys General have teamed up to file a lawsuit aiming to stop the Federal Communications Commission's planned rollback of net neutrality.

The multi-state lawsuit [PDF] asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the FCC's repeal order, calling it arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion that violates federal law.


"An open internet - and the free exchange of ideas it allows - is critical to our democratic process," Schneiderman said in a statement on his website. "The repeal of net neutrality would turn internet service providers into gatekeepers - allowing them to put profits over consumers while controlling what we see, what we do, and what we say online. This would be a disaster for New York consumers and businesses, and for everyone who cares about a free and open internet."

The FCC has not filed its new rules with the Federal Register, so the repeal is not yet final, but the lawsuit has been filed out of "an abundance of caution" and to "preserve the right to be included in the judicial lottery procedure." It's essentially the states' way of establishing the first step towards a full challenge of the FCC's decision.


The lawsuit is backed by Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

In related net neutrality news, 50 senators have now endorsed a legislative measure to override the FCC's net neutrality repeal, reports The Washington Post. With one additional Republican vote, a Senate resolution of disapproval will be able to be passed, but it will still need to make it to the House and be signed by President Trump.

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FCC Has Voted to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to repeal Net Neutrality rules put in place by the United States government back in 2015 under the Obama administration (via Recode). Instead of classifying internet service providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC has voted 3-2 in favor of rolling back to reclassifying ISPs as "information service" providers, as they were between February 1996 and February 2015.


Now, companies like AT&T, Charter, Comcast, and Verizon will be allowed to block or slow down a user's access to certain websites, as well as potentially charge access to sites and services. The vote passed in favor under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, along with the two other Republican commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr. Outvoted were Democrat commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel.

The order now adopted by the FCC today will eliminate a "utility-style regulation" of ISPs, and also removes any requirement for these companies to refrain from blocking or throttling web traffic. One requirement remaining is that telecom companies will be forced to tell customers if and when they prioritize their content over competitors, and if they don't they could face penalties from the Federal Trade Commission.

Apple and many other large technology companies previously urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. Those in favor of keeping ISPs classified under Title II argued that the FCC rolling back the internet's classification as a public utility will hurt net neutrality, as it could eventually divide internet users into so-called "fast lanes" and "slow lanes." Throughout his remarks given today, Pai said that this will not be the case.
And Pai, before the vote was final, sought to swat away his critics. “Following today’s vote,” he began, “Americans will still be able to access the websites they want to visit. They will still be able to enjoy the services they want to enjoy. There will still be cops on the beat guarding a free and open Internet.”
Apple's comment on the topic earlier this year stated that this ruling could "fundamentally alter the internet as we know it," and if it passed it would be put in place to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation. Around the same time, the FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public who voiced their opinions on the controversial issue in the months leading up to today's vote.

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FCC Expected to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules in Vote Next Month

FCC chairman Ajit Pai today announced that his controversial Restoring Internet Freedom order is headed to vote on December 14.


The order, proposed in May, would roll back the Barack Obama administration's classification of internet service providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

As common carriers, internet providers are required to act as neutral gateways to the internet. In other words, companies like Comcast are not allowed to speed up or slow down content passing through their networks.

If the order passes, ISPs will be reclassified as "information service" providers, as they were between February 1996 and February 2015.
For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.
Apple and dozens of other large technology companies urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. The FCC also received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public during a feedback period that ended in August.

Those against the order believe that the FCC rolling back the internet's classification as a public utility will hurt net neutrality, as it could eventually divide internet users into so-called "fast lanes" and "slow lanes."

In a letter submitted to the FCC in August, Apple warned that paid fast lanes could result in an "internet with distorted competition."
Broadband providers should not create paid fast lanes on the internet. Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider's content or services (or the broadband provider’s own online content or services) over other online content, fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today—to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation.
Pai, who was designated as FCC chairman by Donald Trump, insists the Obama-era internet regulations are a "mistake." Under the new rules, he said the FCC will "stop micromanaging the internet" to foster innovation.
Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.
Despite the significant backlash from tech companies and the public, it is widely expected that the FCC will vote in favor of the order next month.

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Apple Urges FCC Not to Roll Back Ban on Internet ‘Fast Lanes’ in Push for Net Neutrality

In a letter submitted during the Restoring Internet Freedom comment period, Apple has urged the U.S. Federal Communications Commission not to roll back regulations that prevent "paid fast lanes" on the internet.

Image via Change.org. Apple logo added by MacRumors.
Broadband providers should not create paid fast lanes on the internet. Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider's content or services (or the broadband provider’s own online content or services) over other online content, fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today—to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation.
Apple warns that paid fast lanes could result in an "internet with distorted competition" based on an online provider's ability or willingness to pay, which in turn could put some customers in the "slow lane."
Consumers today seek out the content and services they desire based upon numerous factors, including quality, innovation, ease of use, and privacy considerations. Paid fast lanes could replace today’s content-neutral transmission of internet traffic with differential treatment of content based on an online providers' ability or willingness to pay. The result would be an internet with distorted competition where online providers are driven to reach deals with broadband providers or risk being stuck in the slow lane and losing customers due to lower quality service. Moreover, it could create artificial barriers to entry for new online services, making it harder for tomorrow’s innovations to attract investment and succeed. Worst of all, it could allow a broadband provider, not the consumer, to pick internet winners and losers, based on a broadband provider's priorities rather than the quality of the service.
In May, under the leadership of chairman Ajit Pai, the FCC proposed to roll back the Barack Obama administration's classification of internet providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

Apple is far from the only major technology company that has urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. Last month, companies including Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Netflix hosted an internet-wide day of action to save net neutrality.

The FCC received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public during the comment period, which closed Wednesday. The FCC will now revise and vote on the proposal, at which point it could become official policy.

Full Letter: Apple's Reply to "Restoring Internet Freedom" via Recode

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Donald Trump, Peter Thiel beckon tech leaders to Trump Tower

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One month after his election as president of the United States, we may get a better idea of what to expect from Donald Trump’s relationship with tech as he’s summoned tech leaders to his gilded tower in Manhattan for a roundtable non Dec. 14.

According to USA Today, the key members of Trump’s transition team who extended the invitation included the president-elect’s future chief-of-staff Reince Priebus, son-in-law Jared Kushner and sole tech pal, Peter Thiel. 

Trump famously claimed he doesn’t use a computer, but he does partake (too much) in communicating with his followers via Twitter, where he has bashed big-time tech companies like Apple, Google and Amazon. Read more…

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Feds to AT&T and Verizon: Your free data deals violate net neutrality

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The government’s most important media regulator just sent a clear message to America’s biggest wireless companies: Your free data streaming programs are a violation of net neutrality. 

The question, though: Will it matter?

In letters to AT&T and Verizon sent Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission made it clear to the telecom giants that their free streaming programs are a violation of the rules put in place to ensure net neutrality. 

It’s the most aggressive stance yet against so-called “zero rating,” in which people can stream certain content over their phone, without it counting against their data plans. While these programs are somewhat popular with consumers, they’ve also created concern that companies could use these programs to favor their own content, and force other companies to pay up.  Read more…

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