CEO Randall Stephenson told a conference at the World Economic Forum that the company is looking at monitoring peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, one of the largest drivers of online traffic but also a common way to illegally exchange copyright files.
"It's like being in a store and watching someone steal a DVD. Do you act?" Stephenson asked.
No doubt this will make AT&T a target of the net neutrality crowd, and it could bring up serious questions about service providers' network management practices.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is already being investigated for its use of traffic management tools that stop users from being able to use certain peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing tools. (See FCC Probes Comcast, Comcast Takes on TorrentFreak, Comcast's P2P Problem, 2007 Top Ten: Cable Fables & Lessons Learned , and FCC Eyes Comcast's P2P Policies.)
But what Stephenson is suggesting also brings up serious concerns about end-user privacy and the ability and legality of service providers to sniff out what content end users are passing over their pipes.
Whatever happens, it'll be interesting to see what the regulatory response to such a move might be.
— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading