AT&T Weighs In Against Net Neutrality Regulations for Wireless Industry

CNET reports that AT&T and other wireless carriers and wireless trade associations are expressing concern over recent comments from U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski regarding his support for "Net neutrality", fearing that the current focus on wired Internet service will be expanded to included wireless networks.

The principles of Net neutrality include the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be allowed to prevent users from accessing any particular sort of Internet content on their systems, although certain "network management" practices, which must be made public, can be employed. While wired ISPs have agreed to such regulations, wireless ISPs have expressed serious concerns over the effect such regulation could have on the limited spectrum available for wireless data transmission.

"AT&T has long supported the principle of an open Internet and has conducted its business accordingly," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in a statement. "We were also early supporters of the FCC's current four broadband principles and their case-by-case application to wired networks."

But Cicconi went on to say that the principles and new legislation should not apply to the wireless market.

"We are concerned, however, that the FCC appears ready to extend the entire array of Net neutrality requirements to what is perhaps the most competitive consumer market in America: wireless services," he said.

He argues that wireless networks differ from wireline broadband networks because bandwidth is more limited on a wireless network. And he said that imposing new rules on how carriers operate their wireless networks would stifle investment.

AT&T has in the past expressed concern over the burden certain Internet content could place on its cellular network, and in fact cited those concerns in noting its role in the decision to keep video streaming on the high-profile SlingPlayer Mobile iPhone application limited to Wi-Fi-only. AT&T also received some scrutiny after Apple rejected an official Google Voice iPhone application, although the company has denied in a statement to the FCC that it was even consulted during the approval process for the application.

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