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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 MAIA on 1/30/2008 10:00:08 AM , Rating: 2
About the usage of cryptography in the US:

1. Certain mass-market encryption software may be released from EI controls after a one-time review.
2. "Data recovery" crypto (meaning that government can access keys or plaintext with a lawful warrant) will be eligible for an export license to non-embargoed countries. The procedures for data-recovery licenses were simplified in September 1998, when also "recoverable products" were released for export (a recoverable product means that an operator can access plaintext without the user noticing).
3. After a one-time review, (up to) 56-bit cryptography can be granted a six-month export license, provided the exporting business commits itself to incorporating a data recovery feature in its products within the next two years. This provision was changed in December 1998, when all 56-bit crypto was released for export after a one-time review, with no requirement of data recovery.
4. All other encryption items may be eligible for encryption licensing arrangements; items not authorized under a licensing arrangement will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
5. Encryption "technology" may be licensed for export on a case-by-case basis.


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