March 21, 2006 2:23 PM PST

AT&T chief, FCC chair clarify on Net neutrality

LAS VEGAS--AT&T CEO Edward Whitacre, whose comments initially ignited the debate over whether new laws were needed to preserve network neutrality, said here on Tuesday that fears his company and other big network providers would block traffic on their networks are overblown.

"Any provider that blocks access to content is inviting customers to find another provider," he said. "And that's just bad business."

The issue of Net neutrality, which centers on whether carriers should be able to charge different fees to content providers who access their network, bubbled to the surface during Whitacre's opening keynote address at the TelecomNext trade show here on Tuesday. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin also addressed the issue during his portion of the keynote.

Whitacre, who had been quoted in news reports as saying he didn't think companies such as Google should be given a "free ride" on his network, clarified his position on the subject by saying that AT&T had no intention of making any content unavailable to consumers.

"AT&T will not block or degrade traffic, period," he said. "And we won't change (our position) no matter what sky-is-falling rhetoric you hear. Markets work best when consumers have choices."

Speculation that the two biggest phone companies in the country, AT&T and Verizon Communications, are planning to create a tiered Internet system that would require big bandwidth hogs like Google or Yahoo to pay more for their access has become a hot-button issue in the tech industry.

Whitacre said bandwidth-intensive applications have forced his company to continually upgrade its network to accommodate demand. Last year alone, he said, AT&T spent $11.5 billion on capital expenditures for its wireline network, as well as for upgrades to Cingular Wireless, in which AT&T has a 60 percent stake.

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Charging content providers to differentiate their services on the AT&T network would simply help AT&T find a commercial solution to the problem, he said.

But some people fear that AT&T and other network operators, such as Verizon Communications, may abuse their control of the network. While they may not block traffic outright, they could limit the available bandwidth to degrade the service of competitors or companies choosing not to pay extra fees to enhance their service.

These critics support legislation that would make it illegal for phone companies and cable operators to degrade traffic or give priority to traffic at the expense of other Internet content.

Kevin Martin, the FCC chairman, said during his portion of the keynote address that he believes the FCC's existing principles are sufficient to address problems that may arise should network operators block traffic.

"I think the FCC has authority to act," he said. "And it has done so in the past."

Martin also said he supports the right for network operators to differentiate their networks and prioritize traffic on their networks.

"We need to make sure we have a regulatory environment (in which network operators) can invest in the network and can recoup their costs," he said.

See more CNET content tagged:
AT&T Corp., Net Neutrality, traffic, content provider, chairman


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Why would I believe the CEO of AT&T?
Especially when he starts talking saying "markets work best when consumers have a choice". While that is correct, it's doesn't favor the business, usually the consumer. Therefore I take everything he says with a grain of salt.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
First, deliver on the last promise
Before broadband companies look into any tiered service, they
should actually provide reliable service at the speeds already

These companies are quick to think about a new way of charging
more for the same level of crappy service they've had in the past.

Cable is notoriously bad because they overload the local
neighborhood services. So when everyone in your neighborhood
comes home from work (just like you), your service turns to crap
because everyone wants to be on the internet at the same time.

Ultimately, if I'm paying for a 1.5Mbps pipe, I should be able to
pump WHATEVER I want through that download pipe at the
1.5Mbps rate. If you want to offer a 6-8Mbps pipe, that's great,
but I better be allowed to fill that pipe to its maximum capacity.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Bandwidth Hog" and other DOUBLE-SPEAK...
This, completely dishonest, back-peddling is a absolute sham.

First, the term "Bandwidth Hog" is nothing more than a intentionally bogus-slur, designed specifically to imply that anyone actually using the bandwidth, that they have already paid for, can be considered to be unfairly using too much.

The reality is simply that the bandwidth-providers just want to artificially extract more profit, and impose more control.

In short, the very term "Bandwidth-Hog", is a MANIPULATIVE-LIE.

Nor, is there any reasonable justification to the claim that a content-provider should be charged for the product-consumption of those consumers, who are already paying for the bandwidth which they are actually using.

Can you say DOUBLE-DIPPING..?

Not to mention the fact that this entire "quality of service" issue, is really about one thing, ...artificially controlling data-flow.

But... the WORST part is this complete DOUBLE-SPEAK concerns the fact that the, current,

...let big business do any damn thing they want, ...FCC, trying to pretend that the REAL ISSUES, just dont actually exist, with statements that basically claim such preposterous things as...

The Governments number-one concern is protecting citizen-interests, and addressing their concerns, but the citizens just wont accept it, when we tell them to accept things that fly in the face of experience, or common-sense.


...Oh, Business would never do that... So, we are going to let them do it.


...Besides, when businesses DO do-it, no one will be hurt. And, ...if they are hurt, ...thats just business. The businesses that are hurt, and the citizens, should just get over it.

And, as far as "not degrading services of others,

...This statement ignores such basic facts as the reality that if, some packets are "given priority", then the throughput for others, by the basic laws of physical-reality, MUST by definition, be degraded. Any statement to the contrary is another FLAT-OUT LIE. As is any claim that this wont effect the basic "neutrality", and therefore the functionality, of the Internet.

Its nice to know that those in power think so little of our mental-capacity, ...isnt it?
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And the choir says...
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
Not Necessarily
While I sympathize with your position that
companies shouldn't be able to artificially
extract charges from consumers, I would differw
with at least one of your points.

> ...This statement ignores such basic facts as
> the reality that if, some packets are "given
> priority", then the throughput for others, by
> the basic laws of physical-reality, MUST by
> definition, be degraded. Any statement to the
> contrary is another FLAT-OUT LIE.

Not necessarily. Given overall sufficient
bandwith of the network one person could have
a guaranteed 50mb/sec path without degrading
your guaranteed 10mb/sec path. In fact, if it
did degrade your bandwith you would have a
basis for a complaint with your provider
because you paid for a certain level of
quality-of-service. Having tiered quality-of-
service can provide a cost benefit to consumers
by allowing the consumer to pay for only the
level of service they need. Some providers
already provide tiered bandwidth. It's a double-
edged sword of sorts and has it's pros and cons
depending on how you look at it.
Posted by X99 (37 comments )
Link Flag
Remember 28.8 kbs?
It won't be long before our current consumer speeds seem just as quaint.
Whitacre says he won't block or degrade access. But locking non-paying content providers to current speeds (which he doesn't mention or rule out) would over time be the same as blocking access.
His comment about losing customers is laughable in a system in which the vast majority of customers have only one or two providers to choose from in their local area.
Net neutrality needs to be legally required. Perhaps just by stating that otherwise the phone and cable companies cannot use "Common Carrier" status to defend themselves from lible, copyright infringement, and pornography charges.
Posted by tm10030 (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They've laready taken the money
and haven't provided the high-speed networks we were supposed to get the first time. The Telecom Act of 1996 gave them our tax money to build high-speed networks. Where are they?
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They've already taken the money
and haven't provided the high-speed networks we were supposed to get the first time. The Telecom Act of 1996 gave them our tax money to build high-speed networks. Where are they?
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AT&T is just jealous
Looking at Google's network, it is reacheable via:

15169 GOOGLE - Google Inc. Adjacency: 4 Upstream: 4 Downstream: 0
Upstream Adjacent AS list
AS10026 ANC Asia Netcom Corporation
AS4637 REACH Reach Network Border AS
AS6453 GLOBEINTERNET Teleglobe America Inc.
AS6461 MFNX MFN - Metromedia Fiber Network

So basically, AT&T is jealous that it doesn't have Google as customer and doesn't get money directly from them.

When an AT&T customer accesses Google, AT&T can bill that customer for the bandwidth used. But it can't bill Google because Google isn't one of its customers and it is one of thsoe 4 networks above that bill AT&T for that bandwidth.

If AT&T had Google as a customer, it could bill both the end user and Google for bandwidth.

The underlying issue here is perhaps the peering arrangements between tier1 networks which don't share revenus.

AT&T **** itself in the foot though by spinning its desires that way. If they do what they want to do, networks will simply upgrade their BGP tables to avoid AT&T and AT&T customers will find themselves having inferior routings and they are the ones who will suffer.
Posted by jfmezei (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
He is living in dreamland
He says people will just go to another provider, what other providers?. It's not like you have a whole list of choices. In most towns you either have 2 choices, a Telco or a cable company. I left satellite out of the picture cause they are crap. In some towns you only have 1 choice. I wonder if this guy is living in the here and now. He knows there isn't a vast amount of choices. So to him it's either pay up or go without. Honestly, he thinks the public is a bunch of idiots.
Posted by viperpa (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
is it my imagination...
or does the chairman of the company that reunified AT&T's monopoly talking about "consumer choice" seem like an oxymoron?
Posted by jachamp (84 comments )
Reply Link Flag
fcc morons
Seems that the head of the FCC (frigging corporate crony) made
a speech "about the importance of network providers to recoup
their investmetns in infrastructure" (from cnet).

Jesus friggin Christ, ain't that the reason companies do things?
Spend money to get MORE money back? Next the gov't will let
the telco's join up again into a sin gle company to fight cable.
Crap, they already are. Then they get protected monoply status.
Crap got that too. The gov't will protect the companies ability to
get their money back without the inherent risk of "free" markets.
oops, they just got that too.

Can anyone tell me how I can get into this risk free business?

I promise to pay off any one who needs it.
Posted by nerantzis (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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