If it walks like a monopoly…

Now that Ma Bell has been put back together, it’s wishing to reinstate itself as the dominant player it used to be. The company is trying to sneak its way to top dog status by garnering exclusive arrangements with major players like Apple, and now its involved in a new, seditious attempt to harness the web and police the behavior of its own customers.

The latest effort involving the web has stirred up a hornet’s nest of negative reaction, especially from those who wish to keep the internet free (like, everybody?). A Los Angeles Times interview with AT&T senior VP James Cicconi reveals that the company is working with movie studios and record companies to create and implement anti-piracy technologies at the network level. As Geoff duncan of Digital Trends News writes, this is a first.

The announcement…opens a host of technical, ethical, business, and consumer privacy issues the company will have to deal with even assuming it can develop the type of technology it envisions. In essence, AT&T would assume the role of “copyright cop,” deciding what content can and cannot traverse its networks.

AT&T apparently believes that by engineering a network which is “safe” from digital piracy, the company will gain an upper hand in negotiations and distribution deals with movie studios and record labels as the digital media juggernaut continues to accelerate. If AT&T can make the argument that offering digital media on its network will not contribute to digital piracy, the company may be able to leverage exclusive deals from content providers and possibly charge a premium for distributing media over its network.

Sounds all nice for corporate friends, but what about you and me? I mean, who wants their ISP snooping on their online activity, except those from the same old world of command-and-control?

Doc Searls doesn’t like it a bit, saying “AT&T, please go to hell.”

If I were an AT&T customer today, and I had any other choice of service provider, I’d drop AT&T like a bad transmission. In fact, if you’re an AT&T customer, I suggest you do exactly that. If you can.

Dave Winer has similar thoughts.

If there were a death penalty for corporations, AT&T may have just earned it.

David Weinberger’s assessment is even more pointed.

Putting a cop in the middle of the network and making available content not accessible by other networks means that if the AT&T says it’s offering Internet connectivity, it’s lying.

The Internet is a set of protocols that ensure that bits will be moved across networks (inter-networking) without giving special privileges or control to the carriers.

And Duncan Riley at TechCrunch calls AT&T “American Tracking & Takedown.”

There’s something very, very wrong when a company starts conspiring against its users. Perhaps the days of the customer being always right have passed? Certainly there will be many AT&T customers who will soon (be) looking for internet access from alternative providers

Of course, I’m in agreement with this, and I have AT&T internet experience to back it up.

AT&T is trying to build itself on the products and services of others. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that, but they offer nothing original. They bought Cingular and now will be the exclusive dealer of iPhones for five years. That alone will keep me from buying one (and I don’t think I’m alone). I’m a Verizon guy.

My apartment complex in Grapevine, Texas has an exclusive deal with AT&T to provide phone, “cable” and internet. The cable comes from DirectTV and Verizon lines provide the DSL. DirectTV would be fine, if I had my own dish, but when the signal is spread out over hundreds of units, all kinds of little annoyances come into play. I’m also not a big fan of DSL, and I’ve had my share of problems.

AT&T “works” only when it is a monopoly, and that’s what it wants once again. Otherwise, people flee the scene like doves scrambling to get away from a Red Tailed Hawk. I’m moving in another couple of months, and the fact that my home entertainment and communications is tied to AT&T is — believe it or not — a big reason why.

I wonder how many of their “customers” are in such forced arrangements.

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