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Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 04:55 pm PT (07:55 pm ET)

AT&T sides with Google and Verizon over blanket Net neutrality rules

In a letter sent to the FCC on Tuesday, AT&T agreed with the positions of Verizon and Google over the idea that strict 'non-discrimination' rules would adversely affect the growth and stability of the Internet.

Tuesday, AT&T released a letter to the FCC, where it argued that while the idea of an open Internet was critical to innovation and opportunity, to make nondiscrimination the ultimate goal of the Net neutrality debate would unfairly hamstring AT&T and other companies from effectively managing their networks.

"Preserving the open character of the Internet is critically important to ensuring that all consumers have the opportunity to be creators of content," states the letter. In achieving this goal AT&T wants to make sure "regulations do not undermine our efforts to deploy affordable, ubiquitous broadband or inappropriately infringing on the flexibility for network operators to effectively manage their networks in order to ensure quality of service to all customers."

AT&T points to the joint blog post written on October 21 by the CEOs of Verizon and Google, titled "Finding Common Ground on an Open Internet" as support for its argument.

"Those companies (Google and Verizon) agreed that an open Internet is crucial for consumer choice while recognizing that broadband network providers should have the flexibility to manage their networks to deal with issues like traffic congestion, spam, malware, and denial of service attacks, as well as other threats that may emerge in the future - so long as they do it reasonably, consistent with their customers' preferences, and don't unreasonably discriminate in ways that either harm users or are anti-competitive."

AT&T and Google have not always seen eye-to-eye on the subject of Net neutrality. In September, AT&T argued that Google should be regulated under the same nondiscrimination rules as it does when it comes to blocking rural telephone numbers in its Google Voice application. In a public policy statement on the issue, AT&T wrote:

"While Google argues for others to be bounded by net neutrality rules, it argues against itself being bound by common carriage. Such a contradiction highlights the fallacy of any approach to Internet regulation that focuses myopically on network providers, but not application, service, and content providers."

Google had argued that its Google Voice application was not a regulated service since it originated from an online platform.