WASHINGTON — In a full-page ad placed in major U.S. newspapers on Wednesday, AT&T called on Congress to pass an “Internet Bill of Rights” that would apply to phone and cable companies as well as technology platforms.
Despite its claim in the ad, AT&T has been a longtime opponent of Net Neutrality protections, spending nearly $17 million on lobbyists in 2017 alone to support the Federal Communications Commission’s push to strip away open-internet safeguards. Its newspaper ad comes as more and more members of Congress sign on to a resolution of disapproval to reject the FCC’s vastly unpopular Dec. 14 decision to eliminate Net Neutrality.
In the ad, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson claims that such a bill of rights should apply “consistent rules of the road.” The company has long undermined the public interest on issues like Net Neutrality, municipal broadband, online privacy, surveillance and competition.
The Senate is expected to vote this year on its resolution, which is backed by the entire Democratic Caucus and one Republican — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. A House version of the resolution has already gathered the support of more than 110 members.
Free Press Action Fund Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:
“AT&T’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. Its phony bill-of-rights proposal makes no sense based on the law, the policies or the politics in play.
“Internet users’ rights with respect to their ISPs are already firmly established in the law. They’re guaranteed by Title II of the Communications Act, the commonsense framework for broadband that companies like AT&T and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai have wasted so much time attacking.
“Title II works perfectly as the foundation for Net Neutrality rules — no matter how much money AT&T spends on lies in its ads, or how many of those lies Ajit Pai cuts and pastes into FCC decisions. Title II doesn’t impact broadband investment, deployment or speeds. The numbers, and the ISPs’ own statements to their investors, leave no room for dispute on this.
“That’s why we need Congress to pass the resolution of disapproval and restore the 2015 rules. Internet users won’t be fooled by AT&T’s marketing and lobbying. People understand the importance of an open internet, and they know to distrust the empty promises of cable and phone companies.
“AT&T’s head fake toward one-size-fits-all rules for all websites and content providers should fool no one. Plain and simple, it’s a bad idea. Online platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon wield tremendous power. We need answers to questions about their impact on our economy, our elections, our privacy and our news and information.
“But no matter how much it wants to pretend otherwise, when a company like AT&T connects you to the internet, that’s not the same thing as the information and content you find online. ISPs aren’t like newspapers, movie studios or even social-media platforms that produce and curate information for their users. ISPs are common carriers, and should be treated as such, subject to reasonable nondiscrimination rules like the ones in the 2015 Open Internet Order.
“As soon as AT&T wants to stop lobbying against Net Neutrality, broadband privacy and the other rights it’s worked to kill via the Trump FCC and this Congress, maybe people will stop laughing at desperate tactics like this. For now, all we can do is point out the company’s audacity in pretending that this hyper-partisan Congress can step in to fill the void of the Net Neutrality repeal by writing a new law tailor-made for AT&T.”