AT&T is hardly a fan of net neutrality, at least as most people understand it. The company has been accused by the FCC of violating open internet protections, and has forcefully lobbied against the current rules. It’s even joined in lawsuits to block them.
Nonetheless, AT&T said in a statement today that it is participating in tomorrow’s net neutrality “day of action.” The protest, which will include major tech companies and nonprofit groups, was organized as a reaction to the current FCC’s attempt to roll back consumer net neutrality protections put in place under the Obama-era FCC.
“This may seem like an anomaly to many people who might question why AT&T is joining with those who have differing viewpoints on how to ensure an open and free internet,” AT&T said in a statement on its public policy blog. “But that’s exactly the point — we all agree that an open internet is critical for ensuring freedom of expression and a free flow of ideas and commerce in the United States and around the world.” Recode reports that the company will air ads in DC this week as part of the effort.
Senior executive VP of external and legislative affairs Bob Quinn argues in AT&T’s post that the company supports the foundational elements of net neutrality, even as it pushes back on the strong protections installed under the FCC’s previous chairman, Tom Wheeler. Other cable companies have attempted to make similar arguments. Comcast, for one, has argued that it supports net neutrality, but that the FCC’s current rules are overly burdensome.
Evan Greer, a spokesperson for Fight for the Future, the nonprofit group organizing the day of action, said in a statement that AT&T’s participation was the latest step in a “campaign of misinformation.”
“I have to admit, this is so ridiculous I'm laughing out loud,” Greer said. “AT&T and other companies like Comcast and Verizon have waged an all out war on net neutrality protections, because they want to be able to charge Internet users and startups extra fees, and squeeze all of us for more money for less Internet.”