AT&T: We Support an Open Internet

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Friday, July 14th, 2017

AT&T is joining with hundreds of other internet companies on July 12th to show our support for an open internet. Since this debate began over a decade ago, we have always supported an internet that is transparent and free from blocking, censorship and discriminatory throttling. But relying on 80-year old regulations to ensure these fundamental open internet principles does not make sense.

On July 12th, join us and make your voice heard. Tell the FCC and Congress that we need bipartisan legislation to ensure an open internet for decades to come.

How did we get here?

For more than a decade, there has been a recurring cycle of FCC proceedings, followed by litigation, followed by more FCC proceedings, followed by more litigation, and so on.  All of these proceedings focused on determining the best path forward to preserve an open internet. Ironically, the fight has not been about what rules would apply. There has been consensus for years around the concepts of no blocking or unreasonably throttling content, no censorship of content, and clear, transparent policies which disclose rates, terms, speed, and network management practices.  Rather, the fight has focused on how to justify those rules. 

The real problem is that the authority to regulate the internet must ultimately be found within the confines of an 80-year-old communications statute that was designed to set the rates for all telephone companies back in the 1930’s. The internet didn’t exist back then and only barely existed the last time Congress addressed that statute in the mid-1990’s.  

After many years of debate, the current open internet rules were put in place in 2015 under the authority of that 80-year-old statute.  Regulating the internet under that statute has chilled investment in broadband facilities and threatens to slow the delivery of broadband services to all Americans.  Less broadband investment in turn means fewer jobs, lower productivity and lost opportunity, particularly in rural America where broadband investment is needed the most. 

The current FCC is now working to repeal this framework and has opened a proceeding to seek comment on what authority the FCC has over the internet and what type of rules should be adopted.  But, any FCC Order will be subject to the same old FCC and litigation merry-go-round that has recurred for over a decade. There is no guarantee that any agency-based rules will not change again in the future.  The cycle of FCC proceeding to litigation and back again will only continue.

Simply put, it is time to stop this regulatory see-saw. Consumers need a set of basic online protection and competition rules put in place that will last longer than the next Presidential administration.

Congress should pass a law to ensure consumers are always protected and all internet companies compete on a level playing field under a single set of rules.

Why is AT&T joining the Day of Action?

We do not debate the merits of an open internet. We support enforceable open internet principles of transparency, no blocking, no censorship and no discriminatory throttling.

The current debate is not about an open internet – it is about how to protect it.

To prevent a cycle of rules that pivot with every administration change, we are encouraging Congress to pass bipartisan legislation reaffirming protections against blocking, censorship and discriminatory throttling. This will ensure we have an open internet for decades to come.