AT&T Rallies Staff Against US Net Neutrality Ruling

In the latest turn in the ever escalating war of words over network neutrality, top AT&T executive urges company employees to flood the Federal Communications Commission site with letters opposing any new network neutrality rules

In the frenzied lobbying leading up to the US FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) on  22 Oct vote to propose new and expanded network neutrality rules, AT&T is pulling out all the stops, including urging its employees to write to the FCC that Internet regulation is bad for consumers, jobs, investment and universal broadband.

“Those who seek to impose extreme regulations on the network are flooding the [FCC] site to influence the FCC. It’s now time for you to voice your opinion,” Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, wrote to all AT&T employees over the weekend. “We encourage you, your family and friends to join the voices telling the FCC not to regulate the Internet.”

The AT&T letter also provides employees with a list of talking points.

“The FCC shouldn’t burden an industry that is bringing jobs and investment to the country, but if it is going to regulate the Internet it should do so fairly,” Cicconi wrote. “The goal of the FCC should be to maintain a level playing field by treating all competitors the same. Any new rules should apply equally to network providers, search engines and other information services providers.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed on 21 Sept. new network neutrality rules that would require carriers to deliver broadband in a non-discriminatory manner and to disclose their network management policies in a transparent manner. Genachowski also said the FCC would explore whether not to extend network neutrality rules to mobile carriers. President Obama quickly followed with an endorsement of Genachowski’s plans.

Since then, opponents and proponents of network neutrality have gone into high gear, daily bombarding the FCC with letters and filings. In the intense tit-for-tat, Free Press accused AT&T’s Ciconni of urging AT&T employees to “fake it in the fight against Net Neutrality,” presumably because Free Press finds fault with AT&T’s talking points.

“Cicconi suggests that employees write that net neutrality will ‘jeopardise efforts to deliver high-speed Internet services to every American. Yet he’s unable to provide any rationale for this claim, other than saying that universal access is a goal that ‘can’t be met with rules that halt private investment in broadband infrastructure,'” Free wrote on 20 Oct.

Two weeks ago, AT&T complained to the FCC that Google Voice violates the agency’s network neutrality principles since the service blocks calls to numbers with inflated access charges, including calls to certain rural areas and to adult sex chat lines. AT&T, as a common carrier, is required to complete those calls.

AT&T says what’s good for the goose is good for Google. If Google wants to run a voice service, AT&T contends, then Google should abide by common carrier laws which come with network neutrality rules that prohibit carriers from blocking legal services.