The "Net Neutrality" Wars
There's nothing neutral in the battle between AT&T Inc. and Google Inc. over the future of the Internet.
Google, the powerhouse of Silicon Valley, and AT&T, champion for the old-line phone industry, are marshaling political allies, lobbyists and—in AT&T's case—labor unions for a fight over proposed "net neutrality" rules that could affect tens of billions of dollars in investments needed to upgrade the U.S. broadband network, which lags in speed and affordability compared with some countries.
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission made good on its promise to push new rules that would require Internet providers such as AT&T to deliver Web traffic without delay.
Broadly, that means cable and phone companies couldn't block or slow access to services from Google, Netflix or others that are a drain on their networks or could compete with their businesses.
But as the details of the new rules are hammered out in coming months, AT&T and Google are ramping up efforts to ensure the FCC doesn't impose rules that could hurt their profits or expansion plans.
Plenty of lobbyists have made their concerns about the FCC's proposal known to their political allies over the past few weeks. But AT&T lobbyists were particularly active, swarming Capitol Hill and state houses, prompting a bipartisan mix of governors, congressmen and senators to send worried letters to the FCC. Two big labor unions have taken out newspaper ads attacking the new rules.
"Google to date has gotten relatively a free pass that they're somehow promoting the public good on net neutrality as opposed to, what I see, is that they're trying to entrench their business model," said Robert Quinn, AT&T's senior regulatory lawyer in Washington. . . .
More regulations means that big changes are less likely to occur in the future.
McCain moves to block "net neutrality" rules