- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson took out ads in major papers nationwide to post a letter calling for the creation of an "Internet Bill of Rights" to govern how internet companies and service providers do business.
- According to the letter, the proposed laws should guarantee net neutrality, transparency and non-discrimination for all internet users.
- AT&T recommends such laws apply to all internet companies, internet service providers, web content and devices.
AT&T's letter notes that the FCC has taken four different stances on internet governance under four different presidents and that can be confusing for users and providers alike. Having set laws in place would make expectations clear and enforcement easier.
Some consider the letter's repeated calls for net neutrality hypocritical considering how vocal AT&T was in supporting the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality last month, and the fact that it was one of the four internet service providers that collectively spent $572 million lobbying for the repeal of net neutrality. One of the things that net neutrality regulations try to prevent is service providers throttling customers' speeds or limiting customers' use of services. But a few years ago, AT&T was slapped with a $100 million FCC fine for doing just that, further making its recommendations for net neutrality ring hollow.
Critics note that AT&T's move largely seems like an attempt to regulate actions for internet activities by companies such as Facebook and Google. AT&T had previously argued that FCC privacy rules unfairly targeted its business and that of other service providers, while leaving companies like Facebook and Google uncovered.
Laws governing internet use could have an increasing role in cities' operations and governance, considering that more municipalities are incorporating Internet of Things connected devices and systems. Passing such laws would put the onus on cities to make sure they and their providers are in compliance. Plus, if service providers don't have adequate governance and regulations over their activities and they do happen to throttle internet speeds, entire smart systems could slow to a crawl.
A number of states and cities have been taking their own actions regarding net neutrality since the repeal last month. Nearly two dozen states have joined a lawsuit challenging the FCC's decision to overturn net neutrality regulations. In addition to encouraging action at the federal level, several states are looking into their own legislation to push internet service providers to still follow the principles of net neutrality. And New York City issued a request for information about how the city can monitor internet speeds and internet service providers' performance.
Regardless of whether measures are taken at the local, state or federal levels, the one certainty is that none of it will happen quickly due to bureaucratic processes, and the FCC's repeal of net neutrality will remain as is for the foreseeable future.