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Stunning new filtering plan contradicts its “Your World” marketing campaign

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson confirmed that the telecom and internet giant is “very interested” in a “technology based solution” to monitor data passing through its networks for rogue peer-to-peer traffic.

“It’s like being in a store and watching someone steal a DVD,” said Stephenson. “Do you act?”

Such a move would affect more than just AT&T’s subscribers, as the company’s network investments represent a sizable chunk of the internet’s backbone – which results in almost all Internet data passing through its network at some point. Given that AT&T has, so far, been pensive about the scope of such a project, many are assuming the worst.

More importantly, AT&T may forfeit its end of the deal in what Slate’s Tim Wu calls “the grand bargain of common carriage:” legal immunity from whatever claims might arise from data its network transports, in exchange for offering network service to anyone in a nondiscriminatory fashion. “AT&T's new strategy reverses that position and exposes it to so much potential liability that adopting it would arguably violate AT&T's fiduciary duty to its shareholders,” writes Wu.

In an absence of any official word on why AT&T wants to implement such a project, many people think that the primary motivator is an alarmed response to the growing percentage of traffic attributable to P2P activity; various surveys claim that anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of all internet traffic is P2P related. Lately, ISPs both large and small have been testing the waters with a variety of traffic-shaping initiatives, including Comcast, which last year found itself in the middle of a scandal over how it handles BitTorrent traffic.

According to AT&T – as well as anecdotal reports and commentary from other ISP employees – Internet users should expect a more managed Internet experience in the near future, as technology is finally becoming sophisticated enough to allow for such large-scale projects.

“We recognize we are not there yet but there are a lot of promising technologies,” said AT&T executive James Cicconi, “but we are having an open discussion with a number of content companies … to try to explore various technologies that are out there.”

If anyone has the expertise to deploy such a large filtering project, it would be AT&T: the company was already caught red-handed with powerful data-mining hardware, which it used to gather information on the nation’s web traffic for the NSA.

“The volume of peer-to-peer traffic online, dominated by copyrighted materials, is overwhelming. That clearly should not be an acceptable, continuing status,” said NBC Universal’s general counsel, Rick Cotton. “The question is how we collectively collaborate to address this.”

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Not even public domain
By rebturtle on 1/27/2008 12:29:46 PM , Rating: 1
You know, I can drive down a public street, and a police officer has every right to run my plates if I'm doing something suspicious. My car might be stolen, I might have a warrant, etc.

Now we start talking about AT&T's network, which they spent billions on to provide us all a wonderful service at a profit!, and everyone's going to get in a huff because they might not be able to get all that pirated crap for free anymore, or might have to become responsible for their actions.

Please, I'm not on the MPAA's or RIAA's "side" by any means, but this closer equates to paying to drive through private property. If you want to use it, you have to obey their rules, and they can pull you over and turn you over to the authorities if they see fit. If you haven't done anything wrong, then there's nothing to worry about.

If you're going to state that you have rights not to be spied on, it's "your" data, etc, etc, please stay in your bunker eating spam and canned corn. AT&T has a right to protect it's investment, and nobody cares about your e-mails to grandma or your porn addiction. If you're downloading or sharing stuff illegally, you should be afraid, but you shouldn't be pointing fingers.

RE: Not even public domain
By porkpie on 1/27/08, Rating: 0
RE: Not even public domain
By JoshuaBuss on 1/27/2008 8:24:12 PM , Rating: 1
this post needs to be moved up somehow. you nailed the issue on the head.

the internet is not a free service we have some sort of 'intrinsic right' to use like air... and it's not even a public service provided by taxes.. it's wholly private and we should NOT expect complete anonymity. like the OP said.. if you've done nothing wrong, there's nothing to get upset about here. that'd be askin to getting upset that wal-mart has a history of what's been bought on a certain credit card.

RE: Not even public domain
By Fallen Kell on 1/28/2008 1:56:13 PM , Rating: 3
The only issue here is that they are treating people who havn't done anything wrong as though they have done things wrong. Simply using bittorrent is not wrong. There are many legal downloads that are done as torrents. But because it is very difficult to figure out exactly what you are downloading (especially on the encrypted torrent networks that have been starting to be used), the simple fact that you are using a torrent client they feel you are guilty of something, when they have no proof that you did anything wrong. That is the only issue I have with this.

RE: Not even public domain
By mallums on 1/29/2008 2:02:42 AM , Rating: 2
Correct. I usually get the latest release through bitTorrent. For example. As far as I know, that's legal. I don't understand the legal mumbo jumbo that outlawed the original Napster. Something about, "Must have substantial non-infringing uses." Of course law and common sense are not the same.

RE: Not even public domain
By Christopher1 on 2/2/08, Rating: 0
RE: Not even public domain
By radializer on 1/28/2008 9:33:14 PM , Rating: 2
this closer equates to paying to drive through private property. If you want to use it, you have to obey their rules, and they can pull you over and turn you over to the authorities if they see fit. If you haven't done anything wrong, then there's nothing to worry about.

Agreed ... a point well made about Private vs Public networks ... however, the only problem with your entire argument would be if the response that AT&T planned on taking actually involved some form of bandwidth limiting or information throttling. That requires a pre-assumption of guilt, which is troubling!

How, then, would you differentiate between a legitimate user and an illegitimate user? If someone with a small business uses the P2P protocol to transfer business-related information from their home to their office - should they be penalized with slower network speeds purely because P2P "tends" to carry pirated material on average?

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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