AT&T’s Randall Stephenson Calls On Congress To Enact Net Neutrality And Privacy Legislation

Nikki Ritcher for the Wall Street Journal.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson joked Monday that Washington may not agree “on the freezing temperature of water,” but he called on a divided Congress to come together pass net neutrality and privacy legislation.

The executive called for legislative clarity around the issue of broadband Internet access, saying certain basic principles should be codified into law.

“I get fatigued every time the President changes, the head of the FCC changes, and regulations swing from left to right,” Stephenson said in remarks tonight at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Tech D. Live conference in Laguna Beach.

Stephenson called for Congress to ban some behaviors — like blocking certain types of content, or slowing access. Otherwise, other states will step in to do what California has already done, and institute their broadband rules. Congress should also take up privacy rules, to give consumers control over how their data is being used.

“What would be at total disaster for the innovation we see in Silicon Valley is to pick our head up and have 50 different sets of rules across the U.S.,” said Stephenson.

The FCC, under the Obama administration, instituted net neutrality rules that required all internet traffic to be treated the same. The agency, under the Trump administration, abolished those 2015 regulations. 

California responded by restoring Obama-era open-Internet rules in the state, in a direct rebuke to the Trump Administration’s rollback of these regulations. The Justice Department swiftly slapped the state with a lawsuit seeking to prevent the law from taking effect.

The case is now winding its way through federal court.

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