AT&T could become the first US carrier to officially block Internet traffic from its pipes.
Representatives from the firm told the New York Times that data flows could be reaching a critical point where heavy content policing is necessary. Speaking at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, legal affairs head James Cicconi said major service providers probably ought to begin inspecting traffic and quashing infringing works to help kill off piracy and improve bandwidth. “What we are already doing to address piracy hasn’t been working. There’s no secret there,” he told the paper, adding the carrier has already spoken with a number of players about digital fingerprinting. “We are very interested in a technology based solution and we think a network-based solution is the optimal way to approach this.” The comments are likely to win plaudits from content owners but inspire yet more wrath from consumer groups, which have already lashed out at the carrier’s willingness to expose its subscribers to illegal federal spy programs and direct NSA taps. Critics claim filtering at the network level poses significant freedom of speech concerns and is almost certain to steamroll over fair use provisions. Allegations that Comcast was blocking P2P traffic last year inspired a backlash that included the threat of Congressional oversight and fueled demands for a ‘Net neutrality law. “Whatever we do has to pass muster with consumers and with policy standards. There is going to be a spotlight on it. We’ve got to figure out a friendly way to do it,” Cicconi admitted, noting a technological solution is not yet in place.