AT&T backs wireless exemption to net neutrality

In the wake of fallout from Google and Verizon's (NYSE:VZ) net neutrality announcement last week, AT&T (NYSE:T) reiterated that it believes wireless services should not be governed by the same rules as wireline when it comes to net neutrality public policy. However, AT&T stopped short of endorsing the net neutrality proposal offered by Google and Verizon. That framework sparked heated discussions about the future of net neutrality rules.

AT&T, which has been a vocal opponent of net neutrality, noted wireless data traffic is expected to "explode" over the next several years. "Pitted against this insatiable demand are wireless networks of finite and shared resources," Joan Marsh, AT&T's vice president of federal regulatory, wrote in a company blog post. "Wireless networks simply cannot provide the same amount of capacity as wireline networks (i.e., DSL and cable)."

Marsh explained that AT&T's planned LTE network--an upgrade to its current offerings--still will not provide the same capacity as a traditional wired network. She wrote that policy makers should be focused on freeing up more wireless spectrum for mobile broadband and not on net neutrality.

Last week, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega called Verizon and Google's proposal a positive sign, and said he hopes the industry will come to an agreement on the topic.

Interestingly, Google has had to defend its new position on net neutrality, and last week offered many of the same arguments as AT&T for exempting wireless. Google also insisted the framework is not about protecting Google's Android relationship with Verizon Wireless.

Nevertheless, about a hundred protesters showed up last week outside of Google's corporate headquarters to express their disapproval with Google's position.

For more:
- see this AT&T blog post
- see this WSJ blog post (sub. req.)
- see this MarketWatch article
- see this NYT article

Related Articles:
Google defends net neutrality plan, claims it's not about Android
De la Vega: Google, Verizon net neutrality agreement is a positive sign
Verizon, Google offer net neutrality pact that exempts wireless
Could a Verizon-Google deal shape net neutrality legislation?
FCC abandons net neutrality stakeholder meetings

Article modified Aug. 16 to clarify AT&T's position.