AT&T’s agreement to Net Neutrality as a condition of their merger with Bell South was a huge victory for Internet freedom. It also debunks a top myth told to the public by Internet freedom opponents like AT&T: that Net Neutrality can’t be defined. It can be – AT&T just did it.
The myth in action:
- AT&T Chair Ed Whitacre remarked at a recent telecom convention, “Net Neutrality. I’m not even sure what that means…” (Also see video, at 0:52)
- Mike McCurry, co-chair of AT&T’s front group Hands Off The Internet, asked during debate with Craig Newmark of Craigslist, “What exactly is the definition of ‘net neutrality’ anyhow?”
- Ted Stevens, AT&T’s point man in the Senate during the Republican Congress, remarked, “I can’t put it in words. I’m going to have to take a look at it in terms of how you define real neutrality. It’s sort of like defining a vacuum, isn’t it? It’s not easy to do.”
But when it suited their financial self-interest, AT&T was able to define Net Neutrality just fine in their letter of commitment to the Federal Communications Commission yesterday:
AT&T/BellSouth also commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service. This' commitment shall be satisfied by AT&T/BellSouth's agreement not to provide or to sell to Internet content, application, or service providers, including those affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wireline broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination.
Also of note, this is the first time Net Neutrality has been applied to wireless! Another huge victory.
Some reactions so far to this week’s Net Neutrality victory:
- Frost Bank analyst Le Keough: “This definitely sounds like a pretty serious concession from AT&T.” -
- Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott: “We are no longer having a debate about whether Net Neutrality should be the law of the land; we are having a debate about how and when. Making Net Neutrality a condition of the largest merger in telecommunications history sets an important precedent. It’s now up to the new Congress to craft a forward-looking broadband policy that will bring the benefits of the Internet to all Americans. For free speech, democratic participation and economic innovation to thrive online, Net Neutrality must be the law.”
- Consumer Federation of America Director of Research Mark Cooper: These have been some hard-fought negotiations over important consumer issues."
- Telecom expert David Isenberg had recently debunked the myth that Net Neutrality can’t be defined in his blog piece, Framing Network Neutrality Right. “I cringe when I hear, ‘We do not even know what Network Neutrality means.’ We DO know. Such statements are true ONLY in the sense that we don't know the precise dividing line between a shelf and a table, or that we can't say precisely how a tree grows.”