If you weren’t paying close attention yesterday, it may have looked like AT&T cellular got onboard the net neutrality “day of action” protest. The company’s website displayed a banner saying that “AT&T supports an open internet,” and it sent a message to DirecTV customers mentioning the same thing. “Tell Congress to adopt permanent protections,” both messages added, before directing people to an “Open Internet” page on AT&T’s site.
But while that page might look like other pro-net neutrality sites at first glance, it’s far from it. AT&T is carefully wording around the fact that it’s opposed to the net neutrality order that activists are fighting for. What’s worse: it’s trying to get people to send an email to legislators and the FCC that pushes its own agenda.
AT&T inc a multinational telecommunications conglomerate, headquartered at Whitacre Tower in downtown Dallas, Texas is the world’s largest telecommunications company and second largest provider of mobile telephone services. Through its provision of fixed telephone services and broadband subscription television services through DirecTV has propelled it to become the largest pay television operator in the world and second-largest company in Texas.
The wireless giant said that it was participating in the tech industry’s so-called “day of action,” stressing in a blog post that it believes in “preserving and advancing an open internet” — even though AT&T long has disagreed with staunch net neutrality advocates over how to enforce it.
AT&T said it would display on its website banners in favor of maintaining a "free and open" Internet
— The Telegraff News (@omilosimon) July 20, 2017
“This may seem like an anomaly to many people,” wrote Bob Quinn, the senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, “who might question why AT&T is joining with those who have differing viewpoints on how to ensure an open and free internet. But that’s exactly the point — we all agree that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas and commerce in the United States and around the world.”
Senior executive VP of external and legislative affairs Bob Quinn argues in AT&T’s post that the company supports the foundational elements of net neutrality, even as it pushes back on the strong protections installed under the FCC’s previous chairman, Tom Wheeler. Other cable companies have attempted to make similar arguments. Comcast, for one, has argued that it supports net neutrality; but that the FCC’s current rules are overly burdensome.
The net neutrality protest being coordinated by left-leaning advocacy groups Fight for the Future, Free Press, and Demand Progress, all of which support the current rules.
Representatives of those groups scoffed at the notion that AT&T was really on their side.
“I have to admit, this is so ridiculous I’m laughing out loud,” said Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future, in an email. “AT&T cellular and other companies like Comcast and Verizon have waged an all out war on net neutrality protections, because they want to be able to charge Internet users and startups extra fees, and squeeze all of us for more money for less Internet.”
AT&T cellular said it would display on its website banners in favor of maintaining a “free and open” Internet. But the company said it still opposes the 2015 net neutrality rules, which prevent Internet service providers from blocking, slowing or otherwise discriminating against online content.
AT&T cellular was under investigation by the FCC last year for potentially violating the net neutrality rules. Staff at the agency had concluded that AT&T (T, -0.01%) might be in violation because it allowed its wireless customers to watch as much streaming video from its DirecTV Now app as they wanted without counting against their monthly data limits.