The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jenn Ettinger, 202-265-1490 x 35

Internet Engineering Task Force Says 'AT&T Is Misleading' on Net Neutrality

Public Interest Groups Call on AT&T to Retract Letter and Stop Disinformation Campaign


filed a letter last week with the Federal Communications Commission
claiming its plans for "paid prioritization" arrangements were supported
by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the international body
that develops and promotes Internet standards. In its letter, which
attempted to conflate AT&T's anti-consumer plans with accepted
business-class network management practices, the company stated that
paid prioritization "was fully contemplated by the IETF."

The IETF, however, disputes AT&T's claims. "This
characterization of the IETF standard and the use of the term 'paid
prioritization' by AT&T is misleading," IETF Chairman Russ Housley
told the National Journal. "IETF prioritization technology is
geared toward letting network users indicate how they want network
providers to handle their traffic, and there is no implication in the
IETF about payment based on any prioritization."

"It's obvious that what AT&T calls 'paid prioritization'
is just another way of trying to get around the principle of the free,
open and non-discriminatory Internet," said Gigi B. Sohn,
president and co-founder of Public Knowledge. "The Internet Engineering
Task Force was right to call out AT&T for this mischaracterization,
and the FCC should reject the idea entirely."

Today, several leading public interest groups called on
AT&T to publicly retract its recent letter to the FCC, and asked the
company to stop misleading the agency on this crucial issue at a
critical moment in the development of open Internet policy.

"AT&T should immediately retract its inaccurate and
misleading letter and apologize to the FCC for unnecessarily muddying
the very important debate over the future of the Internet," said S. Derek Turner,
research director at Free Press. "Unfortunately, the fact that AT&T
has instead chosen to buy ads promoting its attempts to mislead
policymakers indicates that the company's priorities do not include
participating in reality-based policy debates."

The groups urged AT&T to publicly reject the practice of
paid prioritization and affirm its support for FCC rules on Net
Neutrality like those AT&T operated under for two years following
its merger with Bell South. Under those conditions, AT&T agreed that
it would not "provide or sell to Internet content, application, or
service providers ... any service that privileges, degrades or
prioritizes any packet ... based on its source, ownership or

"The dispute with AT&T over the IETF DiffServ
architecture underscores how important it is for the FCC to adopt and
enforce a clear policy to prevent discrimination on the Internet," said Mark Cooper,
director of research at Consumer Federation of America. "AT&T's
misinterpretation of the IETF DiffServ architecture and its subsequent
campaign of disinformation, like last month's Google-Verizon deal, show
that the network operators put their private interests above the public
interest and are willing to bend and break technical network management
principles at the expense of the open Internet."

Last week, the Open Technology Initiative at the New America
Foundation challenged AT&T, filing a letter of its own
distinguishing between harmful paid prioritization and legitimate
business practices.

"Our response letter to the FCC focused on AT&T's
disingenuous interpretation of IETF's work; however, we have other
serious concerns with AT&T's recent letter to the FCC," said Sascha Meinrath,
director of OTI. "We are still waiting for the FCC to investigate
whether AT&T engaged in any activity that violated the conditions of
its merger with Bell South."

Andrew Jay Schwartzman,
senior vice president and policy director of Media Access Project,
added: "AT&T should take this episode as an opportunity to elevate
the debate by making it clear that it has not previously engaged in paid
prioritization and by explaining why it thinks it needs to change its
practices going forward."

The groups emphasized the need for honest public debate and
for policymakers to recognize attempts to camouflage anti-consumer

"The public is tired of companies like AT&T misleading them in order to block public interest policies," said Beth McConnell,
executive director of the Media & Democracy Coalition. 'It's time
for policymakers in Washington D.C. to reject AT&T's deceptive
tactics, and instead to adopt common sense rules to protect consumers

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