It's one thing to disagree with President Obama's stand on net neutrality. It's quite another to resort to bullying, but that's exactly what AT&T is doing. Earlier this week, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told investors he plans to delay his company's ambitious fiber optic cable investments in 100 cities.
Why? Stephenson says he doesn't know how the net neutrality debate will shake out, and that makes it impossible to invest in network expansion. Which, of course, is nonsense.
AT&T is a longtime and vociferous opponent of net neutrality. It's very unlikely that the regulatory framework proposed by Obama would actually undermine the carrier's business, but AT&T wants to be free to shape the Internet however it wants. So it's doing all it can to set the terms of the debate, regardless of the facts.
If Obama's proposal was in fact, problematic for AT&T, its investors would flee, but they haven't. AT&T's stock has been rising sharply since late October, and it continued to climb after the President made his statement at the beginning of the week.
In other words, AT&T's stock is doing well, and its plans to cut back on the network expansion comes at an awfully convenient time. The company found a politically convenient excuse to slam on the brakes and claim that net neutrality will hurt consumers by stopping investment in better networks.
In his statement, Obama made it clear that he opposes ISPs' attempts to prioritize Internet traffic in exchange for higher payments from content providers. Traffic should be treated equally even if an ISP's competitor is moving content over its network, and lawful content should not be blocked, according to the president.
The alternative is an Internet dominated by the AT&Ts and Comcasts of the world, in which innovative new competitors that require a lot of bandwidth are at severe disadvantages. Those companies' content will move slower than that of competitors because they can't afford to pay the tolls for the fast lane.
Thankfully you can help swing the debate by making some noise. Sign petitions, make phone calls, send emails to Congress. A good place to start would be a call to the White House in support of net neutrality. The president is, after all, a politician and he needs to know he has support. Free Press, a nonprofit advocacy group, made it simple to make that call. You can also keep tabs on BattleForTheNet.com for additional ways to take action in the future.