AT&T Makes Surprise Offer On Net Neutrality

John Lister's picture

AT&T says its prepared to drop its opposition to government rules for net neutrality. In return it wants to be allowed to take over DirecTV without regulatory interference.

The offer could be a dramatic development in the ongoing dispute over net neutrality. That's the principle that Internet carriers should not discriminate between different types of content (other than illegal material). Examples include: blocking, slowing down, or charging special carriage fees for some forms of data, but not others.

The US government, in particular the Federal Communications Commission, has consistently argued that net neutrality should be an enforceable legal principle. The big holdup to this belief was that the FCC's own rules defined broadband as an "information service," rather than a "communications service." That classification meant it did not have the same legal authority as it does over services, such as voice calls over fixed telephone lines. (Source:

Broadband Firms Challenge Government Authority

Earlier this year the FCC formally reclassified broadband as a communications service and then laid down tougher rules that specifically set out what broadband providers must do to abide by net neutrality.

Several organizations in the broadband industry have now launched legal action challenging the move, with some arguing that the FCC doesn't have the right to change the classification, while others say that even with the new classification, the FCC is overstepping its authority by enforcing net neutrality.

AT&T was among the most high-profile firms that had started such legal action. According to the Washington Post, it has now offered to not only drop the legal action, but to follow the FCC's new rules without complaint. It appears AT&T would agree to follow the rules regardless of the outcome of any other legal action from other firms. (Source:

AT&T: Offers Net Neutrality Deal for DirecTV

It's a conditional offer however: in return, it wants the FCC to grant approval for it to take over satellite carrier DirecTV. That's a controversial deal as, although one covers cable TV and the other satellite, the two companies are rivals in offering pay-television services to customers.

The offer really puts the FCC on the spot. On the one hand, getting AT&T on board with net neutrality would be a big coup and could even undermine the cases from other firms who are arguing that the rules are unworkable. On the other hand, it may feel that agreeing to AT&T's offer could be seen as giving in to blackmail and undermining its own independent and authority in overseeing proposed mergers and takeovers.

What's Your Opinion?

Should the government have the power to enforce net neutrality principles? Is the AT&T offer a sensible compromise and a win-win situation? Should the FCC agree to the offer?

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doliceco's picture

The government definitely should have the power to enforce net neutrality.

Concerning the AT&T offer, I would like to access & read the exact written proposal in its final form to venture an opinion, because as with all these complicated things (particularly when the government is involved) -- "The devil is in the details".

Can anyone advise me where I can find the text of the proposal as written?

stooobeee's picture

People seem so willing to let go of freedom. A little chip off the shoulder here, a little there, and slowly half the shoulder is missing. We are too slow to see further than ourselves. The time to fight for something is when the first piece is missing, not after half of our rights are gone. We have morphed into a wholly other government. What we knew before no longer exists because we were not careful enough to hold onto what we had. It is gone now. Shall we just throw in this piece too?

guitardogg's picture

I 100% support Net Neutrality, but please don't don't let AT&T take over DTV!!! I love the service I get from DTV. AT&T is my ISP, and I don't love them or their service so much! A lot of effort went into breaking the AT&T monopoly years ago. Don't let them start a new one in the TV world!!!

FreedomRydr's picture

'Somethin's goin' on, and we don't know what it is.... do we, Mr. Jones'? (BD)
Just as we cannot make and informed decision, based on our own opinion in the matter, the FCC cannot with good conscience, agree to it, Carte Blanche, without knowing what 'Ma Bell' has up her very long sleeve! It may not be bad deal, but then again.... Perhaps the FCC knows more than they are saying, and its's a cinch AT&T does. So if they really want this deal, sweeten it for us, the end user (not me personally, I have no skin in this game as I do not use any premium comm services. Not while there is net neutrality!)? What is going to happen to 'us'? If AT&T thinks this is 'such a deal', tell us why? What is on the agenda for your satellite services, if in fact you get this brass ring? The whole ball of wax should be laid out, otherwise they are basically admitting they are going to do something that would not be embraced with open heart, by either the FCC or the end user. So why not lay it out for us? What is the big plan that the board, sitting around that big glass table on the penthouse floor of 208 South Akard Street in Dallas, voting YES!, on this grand plan. What is it? Maybe we will support it (Not that we have a say, other than forums such as this).

The bottom line is that 'we' (now, I have skin in the game!) the users of the world-wide web, we want it to remain 'neutral', i.e., not a chargeable commodity! Not a controlled, ala 'Metropolis', 'Fahrenheit 451', '1984', etc. with 'Big Brother' (not you, Julie) with his hand on the controls, that link our computers to their cash registers, and if we do not pay, the throttle is pulled back, or the OFF switch thrown, until we do! Maybe we should have the DoD weigh in. What was THEIR plan when they turned the 'Arpanet' over to the public? What did Bob Dole plan?(different 'BD'). Did they consult with Ma B. before doing so?? Ya know, it well could be!! Curiouser and curiouser.... Watson, bring the carriage around. We have work to do!

froghop25_4711's picture

Seems like the FCC could still use the AT&T offer as support for the workability of the rules since it could be argued that AT&T wouldn't have made the offer if they didn't think they could make it work.

I too am a DirecTV customer and it is pretty much the only option where I live. I wouldn't like to see AT&T take over if it meant they would get rid of DTV and end up offering nothing in its place or offering something of lesser quality or higher price.

philipreeves46's picture

ATT Uverse is my ISP. I like it pretty much. It is way better than our cable service. Charter goes off the air alot during thunderstorms and the picture jumps around and the sound goes off repeatedly. I think it's called pixelated. I'm for net neutrality. I'm also for modernization of our internet so that the United States won't have one of the slowest internet speeds in the world. Whichever service will provide that is the one I support.

matt_2058's picture

There's too many agendas here for this to be easy. We need the idea of net neutrality. We don't need all the stipulations that turn it into a 1000-page rule.

The FCC is right to re-classify Internet as communication. The internet has transformed from the original classification and the content of the early 90s. It is now everything, including phone and TV. It is Retail stores, mail services, news and information, education medium, and just a plain old time waster.

AT&T's offer to drop its fight with the government in return for the government to not interfere with its plan to acquire DirecTV is really slick. The government needs to consider the fallout from this. Maybe the government can change the rules if it sees fit later. Take away all the ifs and maybes...this is bad. The government needs to slap AT&T for something very close to extortion.

As for an AT&T monopoly, what's the difference between AT&T buying DirecTV (a competitor) and a local business getting rolled into a national chain? Because we don't have a choice? Most citizens do not have a choice anyway. Many times local officials only allow one cable provider to service the area. That is a monopoly. Or maybe you have no options because a competitor won't invest because there is not enough subscribers to support two providers. In my area Cox owns cable service and AT&T owns phone lines. Each offers TV, phone, and internet. There is Hughes satellite, but 6MB service is a joke. No Verizon, Comcast, etc. I liked living in CA where the town owned the infrastructure and negotiated services as it kept prices reasonable for its citizens.

gilvoice's picture

Net Neutrality has very little to do with this new law. It has everything to do with control. Not only over licensing, but also content. Why do you believe there is no discussion over the content, simple it is secret. Our government now believes it does not have to disclose content of new laws to the masses before it is passed. No discussion, no debate on content. Just tell the masses that it is what is good for everyone. Then put out a statement that the head of the controlling department will write and or edit the rules as they see fit when they see fit.

Mark these words Net Neutrality is about licensing control and control of content on the web.