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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: ATT and the NSA
By Jellodyne on 1/28/2008 12:54:17 PM , Rating: 3
> The market spoke the first time: it clearly decided that
> the optimal situation was a single dominant telecom.

Please do note, that this is the optimal solution FOR THE SINGLE TELECOM. Economies of scale make it such that a single large telecom company can operate more efficiently than several small companies. BUT -- No competition = charge whatever you want, provide as sloppy service as you want. This was the old AT&T through and through.

> For whatever reason, perhaps it was a net positive and
> perhaps not, we smited the market creation.

The reason for the breakup of AT&T was to foster competition in the marketplace for the benefit of the consumer. The result of the breakup can be described only as wildly successful, both to that end, and also (somewhat ironically) to the benefit of AT&T. The combined value of the seperate companies grew at a significantly greater rate after the breakup than before. Competition led to better service, lower prices, more services, an amazing infrastructure buildout which fed directly into the internet boom of the mid to late 90s.

> The market, however, being unconquerable, put humpty
> dumpty nearly back together again. Decades later, the
> efficient outcome has remained the same.

Yay for the market! You know the optimal market position for AT&T is for them to own everything, and for all of us to be unpaid slave labor to build their golden ziggurats. Our govenrment, to whatever extent, is for/by/of the people, basically its assigned job is to look after the rights of the people. We live in a free market capitalist society. A lot of the time, low regulation, hands off, lazes faire government is in the best interests of all concerned, the people and the corporations. But not all the time.

You'd either have to be pretty ignorant of the issues and outcomes or really be an idiot to look at the breakup of AT&T as an argument for unfettered libertarian-style market policy. Its possibly the single biggest counter arguement since the breakup of Standard Oil.

RE: ATT and the NSA
By mallums on 1/29/2008 2:34:37 AM , Rating: 2
Please do note, that this is the optimal solution FOR THE SINGLE TELECOM. Economies of scale make it such that a single large telecom company can operate more efficiently than several small companies. BUT -- No competition = charge whatever you want, provide as sloppy service as you want. This was the old AT&T through and through.

Actually with AT&T, you could always depend on getting a dial tone. They may have been a lot of things, but "sloppy service"? I think you need to define that term. On the other hand, you couldn't use your own phone, you had to rent an answering machine from them, no modems allowed (data on leased lines only), etc. So, yeah, AT&T was a bit obnoxious. But net neutrality is not the same. There used to be competing phone companies, and the government decided in its infinite wisdom that a monopoly was a good thing, since the phone company was a public utility.

In the end, they had to force the regional phone monopolies to work together. They may have to do the same thing all over again, as the various ISPs and backbone providers square off against each other.

The internet is becoming a necessity, and it wouldn't surprise me if it was ruled that people need "lifeline" connections, the way phone service is considered now, with discounts for less-privileged, people. As phone service is, in order to make sure everyone has access to 911 and public services.

If the internet is a common carrier, as it should be, then it needs to be content neutral. Just as drug dealers run their business with the phone, so should pirates be allowed to use the internet. (They should pay for the bandwidth they use.) And as with drug dealers, law enforcement should need a warrant before tapping a pirates' connection. And then, when it is established fact (and not mere suspicion), they should be busted, and go to jail. In that order. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The only way to be fair is to be neutral. And AT&T is either (stupidly) falling victim to the powers that have a vested interest in controlling what we do, or they have their own agenda, and are (shrewdly) using this as an opportunity to further it.

And shooting themselves in the foot, in the process, as this is a strategy that can only be good for business in the short term. In the long term, they would make more money for the stockholders by providing and selling as much bandwidth as possible. That's why this new policy makes no sense. They are closing off their own market. And exposing themselves to a lot of liability in the process.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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