Is AT&T after bandwidth hogs and YouTube, or just cozying up to Hollywood?

Far be it from me to be the only one not piping up in response to James Granelli’s LA Times piece AT&T to target pirated content: It joins Hollywood in trying to keep bootleg material off its network. (“Its network, the headline says. Not “the Internet”, but its network,” notes Doc Searls.)

The article pegs the action to digital video: “As AT&T has begun selling pay-television services, the company has realized that its interests are more closely aligned with Hollywood, Cicconi said.”

As is my wont, I asked some smart (non-blogger) friends their thoughts. Going on my summary of the article, one friend Joe Turow surmised that AT&T’s wants to strengthen its own wireless music store (“the ultimate music experience,” dontcha know?) Another Jonathan Zittrain (author of a much-anticipated book on the generativity of the internet) thought that “the devil will be in the details. What sort of filtering do they have in mind, I wonder? My guess is that they are solving a problem with a problem: looking for those users who do p2p all day and thus are bad deals for AT&T — giving them license to proactively kick them off the network and offer piracy rather than bandwidth consumption as the reason. And for the content providers, the most active p2p users are the ones they want.”

Alex Curtis of Public Knowledge asks:

The article says this new alliance is targeting “the most frequent offenders,” does YouTube fall into that category? From Viacom’s perspective, YouTube is The No. 1 Offender; considering AT&T’s lack of love for YouTube/Google already, is it a stretch to see AT&T blocking YouTube in the name of piracy?….Whether you buy into this conspiracy theory or not, it’s increasingly more difficult to deny that these “who controls the gateway” issues of net neutrality, open access, media concentration, and legitimate use of content are all intertwined. Ensuring unfettered access to the open Internet and new business models to ensure creators get paid for consumed content are both critical to the sharing of ideas, democracy, and our economy.


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