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AT&T: Preemptive Strike On Paid Prioritization Could Hurt Broadband Plans - Broadcasting & Cable

AT&T: Preemptive Strike On Paid Prioritization Could Hurt Broadband Plans

Letter to FCC outlines areas of "apparent agreement"
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AT&T
continues to make its case for paid prioritization of Internet traffic,
saying there is growing consensus on the issue, and has made an appeal
to some critics of its position for direct talks.

Prioritization
is one of the issues that put a crimp in FCC efforts to midwife
compromise legislative language among stakeholders, including AT&T,
on clarifying the FCC's authority over Internet access
service.

In a letter
to the FCC Wednesday, the company outlined areas where it said there was
agreement between it and net neutrality regulation backers Open
Technology Initiative (OTI) and the Center For Democracy
and Technology (CDT) based on letters from OTI and CDT
to the commission. There appeared to be lots of them, from AT&T's perspective.

But the big
difference remains that those groups want a ban on paid prioritization
for third-party content on an end user's last-mile connection, while
AT&T is strongly opposed to a preemptive ban,
invoking national purposes like remote healthcare it says could be
thwarted by a preemptive ban.

CDT, for example, explains that the distinction is between user-requested "payments and contracts to which that end user is not a partyprioritization, which
it finds "unobjectionable" and prioritizing traffic to that user
according to "payments and contracts to which that end user is not a
party," which it opposes."

"[T]he ban
they seek would have the perverse effect of preventing the introduction
of new, pro-consumer services that could further the Administration's
and Congress's goals," said AT&T, including
"through telemedicine; education through distance learning; the
environment through telecommuting; and many other national imperatives."

But the letter was mostly about what the company saw as areas of "apparent agreement."

Those
included that 1) existing prioritized service (so-called managed
Internet services) are OK; 2) payment for prioritization is permissible;
3) that both intranetwork and end-to-end prioritization
is allowable; 4) end users can mark packets for prioritization and 5)
AT&T's managed services are consistent with its merger commitments
in the BellSouth merger.

"AT&T
believes that there is growing consensus on the pro-consumer benefits of
Internet traffic prioritization and much more agreement than
disagreement when it comes to the merits of such prioritization.
To the extent OTI and CDT (or other parties) are interested in
continuing this dialog," said the company in a letter to all the FCC
commissioners, "we would encourage them to contact us directly so that
we can mutually explore constructive solutions regarding
these important issues."

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