Late last year, the FCC invited a new round of comments on net neutrality (and broadband access competition more generally). Somewhat strangely, NBC jumped into the fray, arguing that network providers should be required to monitor their networks for digital copyright violations. Somewhat less strangely, AT&T representatives at a big industry forum this week said “the time was right to start filtering for copyrighted content at the network level.”* (At the time of NBC’s original comments, Art Brodsky rightly ridiculed their claims that copyright violations were hurting America’s corn farmers).
What we’re seeing is a classic marriage of convenience between NBC and network operators like AT&T – a convergence of interests. AT&T wants to avoid net neutrality regulations, and needs every good excuse it can think of to justify managing “their” network as they see fit. Enter NBC. Those crazy kids are stealing all their content, and NBC wants to stop it. Starving corn farmers and all.
The point is that NBC’s copyright concerns gives AT&T an excellent pretext for the right to monitor packets – and more importantly, to structure the network in a way to facilitate access tiering, which is really what the net neutrality battle is about.
I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that copyright violations aren’t really keeping AT&T executives awake at night. They just want to kill net neutrality. NBC, by contrast, sincerely wants the copyright infringements to stop. If that requires signing on to oppose net neutrality, so be it.
*Note that I'm quoting the NYT blog description -- that's not an actual quote from an industry representative.