AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson published an open letter in some major newspapers today saying his company supports network neutrality, even after the FCC voted to repeal Obama-era open internet protections.
Stephenson opens the letter by bemoaning the fact that every new administration seems to have a new approach to regulating the internet. “It is time for Congress to end the debate once and for all, by writing new laws that govern the internet and protect consumers,” he argues.
AT&T, it seems, may be anticipating that FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s partisan move to roll back net neutrality protections won’t stick. Momentum has grown in Congress to pass Congressional Review Act resolutions to outright block the FCC’s repeal. The measure needs one more vote to pass the Senate. Politico reports that Louisiana Republican John Kennedy is leaning toward becoming the 51st senator to pledge support, guaranteeing the measure’s passage in the Senate.
AT&T may be trying to get itself (and its lobbyists) in position to negotiate favorable terms in any new net neutrality legislation. The central point in Stephenson’s letter is that one set of rules should apply to both internet service providers and internet companies.
“It would be a lot easier to take AT&T at their word if they hadn’t spent more than $16 million last year alone lobbying to kill net neutrality and privacy protections for internet users,” said the advocacy group Fight For The Future in a statement Wednesday. “[T]he big ISPs’ plan has always been to gut the rules at the FCC and then use the ‘crisis’ they created to ram through bad legislation in the name of ‘saving’ net neutrality.”
Stephenson says AT&T has been respecting network neutrality principles for a decade.