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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 Christopher1 on 2/1/2008 1:36:16 AM , Rating: 1
The market did not decide that the optimal situation was a single dominant telecom. The reason that a single dominant telecom came around was because the companies in question were threatening other people to not get into the game or lowering their price to the point where they were taking a loss in order to keep other people out of the market who were thinking of getting into it, so they could keep on sucking up more and more of the market and then when no one could compete with them and everyone had given up on competing with them (which almost came about for AT&T)..... BAM! They could jack up the prices for their services!

Luckily, the federal government saw the possibility, if not probability, of that happening given a little longer and broke up AT&T before it could happen.

I don't have a problem morally with the big telecom companies..... I have a logical problem with them because I am terrified of the above happening, which it will if we are not VERY careful and keep on breaking up monopolistic companies or putting controls on extremely big companies to make sure that is not happening.

On another point, I do not honor success in this nation unless a person is willing to open up their books and show that they have done everything by the books..... unfortunately, right now, we do not have a requirement for the multi-millionaires to do that.

The reason that we do not have any competition is also not because of regulatory things..... On average, South Korea has MORE regulations than the United States does, and yet their internet has matured at a faster rate than the United States has, even taking into account that they are smaller by far than the United States.
The reason that we do not have any competition is because small startups know that they cannot compete with AT&T, not because of the regulations, but because they cannot beat them on price because AT&T owns the lines that they would have to purchase access to, and AT&T keeps those purchase fees very high in order to discourage people to keep out of it, according to my cousin who OWN shares in AT&T, Microsoft and Verizon.

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes

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