Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would attempt to bring back the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. AT&T CEO John Stankey on Thursday came out swinging against the FCC. When asked about FCC’s plans to bring net neutrality back to internet service providers, he made it clear that net neutrality was not needed.
“There’s no indications that in the ISP segment, there’s any discrimination going on,” Stankey said on a conference call to discuss its third-quarter financial results. “We have an industry in aggregate that supports no blocking, no paid prioritization, no throttling contrary to what we see going on with some platform apps that are out there, that are choosing to do some of those things in how they operate their business.”
The comments offer a preview of the arguments that opponents of net neutrality — and specifically the FCC’s attempt to reclassify internet providers as “Title II” common carriers — will make as the agency tries to revive the regulations. The first attempt to put these rules in place faced legal challenges — and ultimately won — and it’s widely expected that the current iteration of the FCC will also have to go through a similar courtroom-filled route.
Stankey said that net neutrality would be taking early 1900s laws and trying to apply them to today’s internet, which he argued does not work.
AT&T went on to say it does not give priority to anyone. He also noted that the country dealt with an intense amount of traffic needs in 2020 during the pandemic, and the industry shifted gears to accommodate things like increased Zoom calls at home and more consumption of streaming content.
“Where other regions of the world were doing silly and crazy things, we relocated massive amounts of work and shifted massive amounts of traffic on wireless networks from the urban core during the days to the suburban residential dwellings,” he said. “And we shifted video from workplaces to home, and we performed remarkably well.”
AT&T did make it clear that they support the idea of net neutrality when it comes to no blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization. What they oppose is the FCC turning the internet service into a Title II classification. That would give the FCC controls over the internet that they do not agree with.
For example, Europe, saw the EU ask Netflix, YouTube, and more to lower the quality of video to help not overrun its networks during the pandemic.
AT&T ended by saying that if this does pass, they will look at fighting Title II and making sure it is within the legal limits of the law.
He said that he hope the FCC will set rational policy for how the internet will run.
Last month, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said rules that govern how internet service providers operate “are more important than ever,” as she made her case to revive net neutrality rules.
“I believe this repeal put the FCC on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public,” Rosenworcel said of the dismantling of the rules during the last administration in a speech at the National Press Club earlier this month. “Today, we begin the process to fix this.”
Now a growing number of internet providers are disagreeing about the need to bring back net neutrality. This sets up what will likely be a long fight over net neutrality not just at the FCC but also likely in courts for years to come.