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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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RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By RonLugge on 1/27/2008 5:21:52 PM , Rating: 2
A good point only reinforced by the fact that Stardock Games -- responsible for Galactic Civilization and GalCiv II, and publishing Sins of a Solar Empire -- does extremely well selling games with no DRM. The only "DRM" involved is the need for a valid CD key to download patches.

The other half of their success is the fact that most torrent sites (they have specifically named Pirate Bay as being the exception) remove pirated copies of their games when asked. Most companies just throw a fit, they don't bother asking.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By masher2 (blog) on 1/27/2008 10:21:45 PM , Rating: 3
> "Stardock Games...does extremely well selling games with no DRM."

Stardock is a tiny 30 man company, with most of their revenues deriving from business software. Their best-selling game is a port of an old 1993 turned-based title that's sold all of 75K copies...about 1/100 of what a hit like COD or Halo does. And, quite frankly, it's not something that's going to appeal to those who typically pirate games anyway.

Trying to claim they've done "extremely" well by selling DRM-free games isn't a very realistic comparison.


RE: Wrong analogy, AT&T
By hedron on 1/31/2008 2:18:36 PM , Rating: 1
That's one good side effect of piracy. Is that cloned crap like Halo and CoD doesn't sell well. I'm an avid PC gamer and am tired of descent games drowning in a sea of over-hyped and over-produced FPS. Maybe one day the retail industry will collapse and the casual gamer will stick to tetris and the hardcore community will go underground.


"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer














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