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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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By Darkskypoet on 1/27/2008 1:11:06 PM , Rating: 2
Not talking literal weapons here... but then i guess going by US government legislation... Perhaps I am.

Greater data interrogation, will lead to greater useage of encryption, which will lead to greater data interrogation, which increases the proliferation of encryption... et cetera et cetera... This is a normal state of affairs, and can be seen in any battle vs. 'criminal' behavior. (see drug trafficking, etc)

However, the fear that should be apparent to most 'in the know' is that the various concerns listed here (4 letter companies, etc), will instead move via lobby groups / special interests to ban the utilization of encryption by us common folk. Specifically, as can be seen by some of the horridly anti-freedom laws concerning prison sentences for failing to reveal a password to an encrypted data volume. (UK has such, and they are spreading)

The idea that one can go to jail for not knowing something (or being suspected of knowing, but not telling) is simply ludicrous. However, it gives us a vector of legislation growth, that could enable such firms to simply drop encrypted packets (or suspected encrypted packets), at various points of entry / transfer across its networks.

Further, the offending IP / user information could be submitted to various legal / government agencies for follow up in criminal proceedings.

Aside from the loss of bandwidth enhancing / network enhancing equipment that 'could have been deployed' instead of adopting such draconian data identification infrastructure, this new legal threat on the horizon against encryption is my greatest concern.

Its one thing to have a firm go all out to 'protect' its <insert salable product> from abuse, in traditional ways... But its quite another to see them start to use the dirty game of buying legislation to keep us in our place.

The former we can fight against, being 'in the know', the latter represents a very dangerous situation, in an increasingly unfriendly environment for exercising one's constitutional rights.

The most horrid part, is that many 'average people' would support such anti-encryption legislation if the powers that be, and their 'supporters', invoke the terrorism argument. Once the topic of 'security' is breached, all bets, reason, and normal rules go out the window.

Sadly, in a lot of cases, it already has.




By Christopher1 on 2/2/2008 12:51:23 AM , Rating: 1
Unfortunately, you are right about the terrorism argument. It has already been used in numerous countries to make people give up their rights out of a fear of 'terrorism' which wouldn't even be around if we would have kept our noses out of the Middle East 50-100 years ago.


"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis














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