Former ISP Owner Calls ISPs Network Neutrality Defence a Lie

Reports are surfacing that ISPs are mounting a defence for their position on killing network neutrality. Meanwhile, one former ISP owner blasted the ISPs defence as little more than “a bald-faced lie”.

As we inch closer and closer to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote to gut network neutrality, the battle to save the Internet has only intensified. Earlier, we documented how Internet companies are squaring off with the regulator. Internet companies blast the ISPs and say that network neutrality must not be gutted. Yesterday, we brought you reports on how others are requesting a delay in the vote after irregularities have been spotted in the commenting period. FCC chairman Ajit Pai blasted the suggestion and called Americans and Internet allies “desperate” and that the vote will go ahead as planned.

Now, we are learning that AT&T, one of the FCC’s allies in the debate, has gone on the defensive to claim that nothing will change on the Internet after regulations protecting it will be scrapped. In a statement, AT&T’s CEO Bob Quinn attacked their critics, saying that it’s all “misinformation” and “rhetorical excess”. From the blog post:

Over the past week, there has been a lot written about what happens to the internet assuming the FCC adopts the proposed order, circulated last Wednesday, at its next scheduled open meeting. I would suggest that most of what has been written falls in the category of misinformation and rhetorical excess. I thought I might try something different and attempt to limit us to a discussion of facts. The short answer is, of course, that there will be no change in how your internet works after the order is adopted.

AT&T intends to operate its network the same way AT&T operates its network today: in an open and transparent manner. We will not block websites, we will not throttle or degrade internet traffic based on content, and we will not unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic (all consistent with the rules that were adopted – and that we supported – in 2010, and the rules in place today). These commitments are laid out in the broadband details section of AT&T’s main website. They represent a guarantee to our customers that we will provide service in an open and transparent way. They have been, and will continue to be, enforceable commitments. We will not remove that language and we will continue to update any changes we make to our network management practices. Those commitments are not new. They have been formally in place in one form or another at AT&T since 2005, and we have also publicly disclosed how we manage internet traffic with a version of our current broadband details description on our website since 2010.

We not only have enforceable commitments on blocking, throttling and discrimination on our own network, we also have incentives to ensure that other ISPs adhere to these same open internet principles. Take, for example, DIRECTV NOW, our over-the-top video service that travels over broadband connections whether owned by AT&T or someone else. We depend on an open internet for this service, and we accordingly conduct ourselves – and will continue to conduct ourselves – in the same manner we expect to be treated when we rely on the infrastructure of others to provide services to our customers.

The day after the FCC’s decision, consumers are going to see no changes to how their internet works. Everyone will be able to access their favorite websites; no one’s traffic will be throttled based on content; and the consumer internet is going to work the same way it did the day before the FCC order is adopted.

(Via Techdirt)

It’s comments like this that isn’t sitting well with one website administrator who says he used to own a small independent ISP. In a newsletter, Drew Curtis of social news website Fark.com stated that big promises like the one above from major ISPs are a “bald-faced lie”. In a detailed account of his experience being an ISP, Curtis spoke about how he owned a small dial-up ISP in Frankfort Kentucky when he started Fark.com in 1999. Curtis described how he was fighting for network neutrality in 2000 because he became aware of an effort by big telecommunications companies to wipe out all the smaller players in the market. He spoke about how he focused on Republican’s because lobbying made them change their stance on the issue. From the rest of the blog post:

The following day I made a few calls to the Republican representatives who had helped us. No response. A few days later, I went up to the legislative offices to visit previously welcoming representatives, and no one would see me. Finally I managed to run into one of them in a hallway, he pulled me aside into his office, closed the door quickly, and said “I can’t be seen talking to you.”

Apparently, the Rep told me in a hushed voice, the day after the amendment was attached to the bill, Bellsouth rolled a literal busload of lobbyists up to the state capitol, including one former Governor, and ran a full court press on every legislator they could get in touch with. Unsurprisingly, the amendment was soon removed, but they went further than that – I don’t know what language the lobbyists used but they put the fear of god into the entire legislature to the point where they couldn’t be seen talking to us at all.

A few months later, Bellsouth rolled out its wholesale DSL pricing, and not surprisingly, the only company capable of signing a contract at the lowest possible level was its own Bellsouth.net subsidiary.

I tell this story because the cable companies and telcos have said that they have no intention of violating net neutrality, yet they’ve spent billions of dollars trying to gut these same rules. It’s a bald-faced lie – they have every intention of using market power to shape the Internet.

So definitely contact Ajit Pai via the Countable link above – it’s one click and won’t take that long.

So, this definitely shows that many in the Internet community are not believing the messaging being pushed by the ISPs. This is especially true for people who have personal experiences working in the independent telecommunications business.

The vote to scrap network neutrality is expected to take place on December 14.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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