Consumer advocates say telecom giant is pushing a terrible—and terribly cynical—legislative fix that would serve their bottom line, not their customers or Internet users more broadly.
Randall Stephenson, chief executive officer and president of AT&T, speaks at a news conference in 2011. "Zero real net neutrality supporters are fooled by this," said Internet activists of Stephenson's open letter on net neutrality which was featured in major newspapers on Wednesday. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
With telecom giant AT&T taking out full page ads in major newspapers and its CEO calling for Congress to write "new laws" to govern net neutrality, consumer advocates are warning that nobody should be fooled over what they say is a "cynical attempt at misinformation" by the company and a transparent push for legislation that would only serve its own interests.
"Internet activists have been warning for months that the big ISPs plan has always been to gut the rules at the FCC and then use the 'crisis' they created to ram through bad legislation in the name of 'saving' net neutrality." —Evan Greer, Fight for the Future"Zero real net neutrality supporters are fooled by this," declared Fight for the Future (FFTF), a group that has helped lead the fight against the FCC's recent vote—led by Trump-appointed Chairman Aijit Pai—to gut net neutrality protections designed to keep companies like AT&T, Comcast, and other Internet Service Provides (ISPs) from further corporatizing the Internet by creating fast and slow lanes for preferred content.
Along with their allies, FFTF argues that anyone who wants to defend the principle of net neutrality should simply back nullifying the FCC's decision to end the Internet's protection under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.
In the ads being run by AT&T, company CEO Randall Stephenson's calls for the creation of an "Internet Bill of Rights" to be drafted into law, one that would "guarantee neutrality and transparency" for the web. But that call, say critics—despite the lofty, if not vague, rhetoric—is bogus.
"We had an Internet Bill of Rights. It was called Title II and AT&T's army of lobbyists did everything in their power to burn it down," explained FFTF's executive director Evan Greer, who said the telecom companies cannot be trusted on this issue.
"It would be a lot easier to take AT&T at their word if they hadn't spent more than $16 million last year alone lobbying to kill net neutrality and privacy protections for Internet users," she added. "Internet activists have been warning for months that the big ISPs plan has always been to gut the rules at the FCC and then use the 'crisis' they created to ram through bad legislation in the name of 'saving' net neutrality."
Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press, agreed.
"AT&T's hypocrisy knows no bounds," Woods told Common Dreams via email. "Its phony bill of rights argument makes no sense based on the law, the policies, or the politics in play. Internet users' rights with respect to their ISPs are already firmly established in the law. They're guaranteed by Title II of the Communications Act, the common sense framework for broadband that AT&T and Ajit Pai have foolishly tossed aside and wasted so much time attacking."
"AT&T's hypocrisy knows no bounds. Its phony bill of rights argument makes no sense based on the law, the policies, or the politics in play." —Matt Wood, Free PressAccording to Wood, AT&T is pushing a terrible— and terribly cynical—legislative fix that would serve their bottom line, not their customers or Internet users more broadly.
"AT&T's head fake towards one-size-fits-all rules for all websites and content providers should fool no one," he said. "As soon as AT&T wants to stop lobbying against Net Neutrality, broadband privacy, and the other rights it has worked to kill at the Trump FCC and in this Congress, maybe people will stop laughing at desperate tactics like this. For now, all we can do is point out the company's audacity in pretending that this hyper-partisan Congress can step in to fill the void of the Net Neutrality repeal by writing a new law tailor-made for AT&T."
As Greer put it, "If AT&T wants Internet users to have rights, they should stop lobbying against them."