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Et Tu, AT&T?

Jeff Baumgartner
7/29/2008

2:45 PM -- Well, they say timing is everything. With Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) about to get smacked up by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for throttling peer-to-peer (P2P) apps and allegedly violating the agency's Internet principles, the blogosphere was abuzz after learning this week that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) bars mobile phone customers from using P2P applications and just might pull the plug (wireless as that "plug" may be) if anyone is caught using those vacuums of precious bandwidth.

AT&T SVP of federal regulatory affairs Robert Quinn shed light on the company's policy, according to this story in Multichannel News.

Quinn disclosed that AT&T's terms of service for wireless broadband subs "prohibit all uses that may cause extreme network capacity issues, and explicitly identify P2P file sharing applications as such a use." AT&T issues warnings about such use but hasn't had to go to the lengths (yet) of shutting down any customers due to P2P usage. Like Comcast, AT&T also denies it "blocks" any apps.

AT&T appears only now to be a bit more upfront about the policy, this coming after Comcast was thumped on the head repeatedly for being less than transparent about its network management policies. These days, Comcast is trying to be crystal clear about that "protocol agnostic" system it's testing and expects to deploy everywhere by year's end. (See Comcast Caves In to P2P Pressure and Comcast Ready to Test New Traffic Cop.)

But if anyone should be grinning about the admission of AT&T's mobile P2P policy, it's the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) . In a filing with the FCC last week, the pressure group argued that any regulation pertaining to network management "must apply equally to all providers," not just Comcast, pointing out that many universities and wireless service providers also restrict some P2P traffic.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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