AT&T rallies its workers, friends and families against open Internet rules

AT&T (T) is urging its store managers as well as their families and friends to oppose net neutrality, the hotly contested proposed federal rules that would prohibit broadband carriers from favoring their own content over competitors' programming.

In a stunningly candid internal memo leaked onto the Internet, Jim Cicconi, AT&T's top lobbyist, urges U.S. AT&T store mangers "to join the voices telling the FCC not to regulate the Internet."

"Those who seek to impose extreme regulations on the network are flooding the site to influence the FCC," Cicconi warns, urging the company's 300,000 employees to organize their friends and families to oppose the new rules.
Cicconi urges AT&T managers and their families and friends to visit www.openinternet.gov and click on the "Join the Discussion" link.

He then offers a series of talking points including, "The 'net neutrality' rules as reported will jeopardize the very goals supported by the Obama administration that every American have access to high-speed Internet services no matter where they live or their economic circumstance."

This isn't the first time that corporate America has tried to rally its employees for a political cause, of course, but AT&T's letter is particularly bold.

An AT&T spokesperson confirmed the memo's authenticity to DailyFinance. "This was not a mandatory business request," the At&T spokesperson said. "We were providing important information to our employees, and it was up to them to respond personally."

Art Brodksy, a spokesperson for Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based pro-net neutrality group, blasted AT&T's tactics.

"It isn't bad enough that AT&T employees have to explain all those calls being dropped, or why their new data plans for the iPhone are more expensive than before, now they have to sell inaccurate and misleading information about Net Neutrality," Brodsky said. "Playing fair with consumers won't harm investment and won't cost jobs."

AT&T has opposed the rules proposed by new FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, which would prohibit broadband carriers from discriminating against rival content on their networks. On Monday, the leaders of the biggest internet companies in the world voiced their support for the rule, which the FCC is set to vote on this Thursday.

Here's the full letter:

TO: All U.S.-based managers

Over the last few weeks an extraordinary number of voices expressed concern over news reports that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to regulate the Internet in a manner that would drive up consumer prices, and burden companies like ours while exempting companies like Google. According to The Washington Post, the FCC has received a dozen letters from Republican and Democratic governors, a letter signed by 18 Republican senators, and a letter sent by 72 Democratic members of Congress. In addition, letters expressing serious concerns were sent by many state legislators and minority groups, and our union partners, CWA and the IBEW.

We encourage you, your family and friends to join the voices telling the FCC not to regulate the Internet. It can be done through a personal email account by going to www.openinternet.gov and clicking on the "Join the Discussion" link.
The FCC has extended the period for receiving comments by allowing postings to its blog until Thursday, October 22nd. Those who seek to impose extreme regulations on the network are flooding the site to influence the FCC. It's now time for you to voice your opinion!

In addition to your own thoughts, any of the following points can be used when you develop your brief blog comments.

1. America's wireless consumers enjoy the broadest range of innovative services and devices, lowest prices, highest usage levels, and most choices in the world. Why disrupt a market that's working so well?
2. There is fierce competition for wireless and broadband customers. Competition drives innovation and encourages companies to develop products, services and applications that consumers want. There's been more innovation in this market than in any since the World Wide Web was introduced. The market is working for consumers. Don't burden it with unnecessarily harmful regulations.
3. Network companies have to be able to manage their networks to ensure the most economical and efficient use of bandwidth, and provide affordable broadband services for all users. Network management is essential for consumers to enjoy the benefits of new quality-sensitive applications and services. The FCC rules should not stop the promise of life-changing, cost-saving services such as telemedicine that depend on a managed network.
4. The "net neutrality" rules as reported will jeopardize the very goals supported by the Obama administration that every American have access to high-speed Internet services no matter where they live or their economic circumstance. That goal can't be met with rules that halt private investment in broadband infrastructure. And the jobs associated with that investment will be lost at a time when the country can least afford it.
5. The FCC shouldn't burden an industry that is bringing jobs and investment to the country, but if it is going to regulate the Internet it should do so fairly. The goal of the FCC should be to maintain a level playing field by treating all competitors the same. Any new rules should apply equally to network providers, search engines and other information services providers.

Thank you in advance for taking action that supports our customers, our company, and our country's commitment to ensure that every American has access to broadband.

Jim Cicconi
Senior Executive Vice President - External and Legislative Affairs
ATT

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