We’re still picking ourselves off the floor from all the laughing we did when AT&T issued a press release this afternoon announcing that it was joining the “Day of Action for preserving and advancing the open internet.”
As co-organizers of this day of action and people who have been fighting for internet freedom for more than a decade, we’d be thrilled to finally have AT&T’s full-throated support of Title II protections for Net Neutrality. Because that is, indeed, what it means to join the Day of Action that more than 80,000 companies, websites, organizations and internet users have pledged to take part in tomorrow.
If only it were true. In reality, AT&T is just a company that is deliberately misleading the public. Their lobbyists are lying. They want to kill Title II — which gives the FCC the authority to actually enforce Net Neutrality — and are trying to sell a congressional “compromise” that would be as bad or worse than what the FCC is proposing. No thanks.
AT&T has spent more money than maybe anyone except Comcast and Verizon to undermine the open internet and destroy Net Neutrality. It has hired hundreds of lobbyists. It has propped up Astroturf groups. Its primary trade association is literally suing the FCC over Net Neutrality and considering taking the case to the Supreme Court.
But if you want to suspend belief for a moment and pretend this isn’t just some Machiavellian B.S., then here are some things AT&T could actually do to defend Net Neutrality and the open internet.
1. Quit trying to co-opt the terms “Net Neutrality” and “open internet.” We get it. You want to join the cool kids. And we’re totally interested in hanging out and seeing where this relationship goes if you can prove to us this is the real deal. Forgive us for being skeptical, but you know what they say: Actions speak louder than words. Here’s an easy way to get started — anytime you find yourself saying the words “we support Net Neutrality” be sure to pair it with “and Title II.”
2. Actually support real Net Neutrality. Encourage your customers, staff and corporate partners to send comments to the FCC in support of real Net Neutrality under Title II. Put a widget on your site. We’ve got tons of tools that will make it super easy — just get in touch and we’d be happy to help you help your base to join the ranks of Team Internet.
3. Get your CEO on the record in support of Title II. The press release you sent today needs work. You don’t actually mention Title II. If you want us to believe you, we need to hear it from the top … only not in a saying “Black lives matter” one day (good) then giving $2 million to the inauguration of Donald Trump the next (er …) kind of way.
4. Quit suing the FCC over the 2015 Open Internet Order. For a company that claims to be so enthusiastic about the open internet you sure are working pretty hard through your trade association U.S. Telecom to crush the legal foundation that protects it.
5. Stop sending all your lobbyists to lobby against Net Neutrality. A newly released Maplight study shows that AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and their main trade associations spent $572 million on lobbying the FCC and other government entities to influence the Net Neutrality debate over the past decade. And that’s just what shows up on the disclosure forms. We know it’s way, way more!
6. In fact, leave Congress out of it altogether. Talk about a solution without a problem. There is a good law already on the books and strong FCC Net Neutrality rules backed by the courts. Congressional action on Net Neutrality would be just repeal with replace all over again. Knock it off. (Pssst … people everywhere — on the right and the left — like the free and open internet just the way it is.)
7. Stop lying. Just, like, in general.
8. Specifically stop lying about investment. We know what you told your investors about the impact of these rules. (There was none.) So stop telling a different story inside D.C. It’s embarrassing.
9. Abandon your merger with Time Warner. OK, we’re getting a little greedy here (you know how it is) but what better way to demonstrate your good faith than dropping this terrible merger that, if completed, would give you too much incentive to mess with our connections and favor your own content.
10. If you won’t do that, can you at least pledge to extend John Oliver’s contract when you own HBO? That’s our guy.
Do all that and we can talk. Until then, sorry, but when it comes to the Net Neutrality day of action …