AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson released an open letter to lawmakers in Congress calling for a national net neutrality law to be passed. A series of full-page ads appears in major newspapers such as The Washington Post and the New York Times.
Stephenson called for Congress to come up with an "Internet Bill of Rights."
Commitment To Open Internet
Stephenson uses the open letter to decry the changes to laws governing the internet over the last four presidential administrations. The back and forth nature of trying to keep up with the changes is concerning for AT&T.
In the letter, Stephenson says that a clear law needs to be established for an open internet. He calls for laws to cover not only telecom and cable companies, but he also calls for internet companies such as Google and Facebook to fall under the new law.
Stressed in the letter is AT&T's commitment to an open internet.
"We don't block websites. We don't censor online content," said Stephenson. "And we don't throttle, discriminate, or degrade network performance based on content. Period."
Stephenson proposes an "Internet Bill of Rights" that applies to all internet companies. This can guarantee consumers neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination, and privacy protection.
The call for the net neutrality laws to cover major Silicon Valley companies may not sit well with them. While many of the major internet companies have called for net neutrality to be restored, it seems unlikely that they would welcome more government regulations that would affect everyday business.
This call on Congress to act could also be seen as a pre-emptive strike to the various state bills that have been introduced to protect net neutrality. Instead of just dealing with a singular law, providers would have to deal with different state regulations causing headaches for the companies.
AT&T may seem like its in full support of net neutrality. However, in the past, the company has fought against the implementation of the rules. Back in 2015 after the rules were established, AT&T joined other wireless carriers such as Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and cable providers in a lawsuit to overturn the net neutrality rules.
Gigi Sohn, a fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law Policy says the open letter is hypocritical. Adding that the company lead the charge against net neutrality rules back in 2015. She also said that Stephenson's proposal would gut the FCC, make protections weak, and consumers would not be helped by it.