AT&T blocks image-sharing site, sparks net neutrality row

AT&T subscribers are unable to access parts of the site, a move being called 'the first shots of the net neutrality war'

AT&T Sunday blocked sections of the popular image-based bulletin board, adding more fuel to the debate over network neutrality.

Web site reported Sunday that AT&T subscribers could not access certain portions of its bulletin boards. And AT&T spokesperson confirmed to Central Gadget that the carrier was blocking portions of the site because they were "following the practices of their policy department." AT&T declined to provide a more specific explanation for why it decided to block portions of the site, although it did say it had specific reason for doing so.

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While AT&T says that it contacted before blocking the site, founder Christopher "moot" Poole said that as of yesterday the company hadn"t contacted him. Poole also advised 4chan users to "call or write customer support and corporate immediately" to complain about the blocking.

Although AT&T restored access to the site late last night, its decision to block has sparked a fresh row in the network neutrality debate. Erling Løken Andersen, the CEO of the Norwegian social networking site, said that AT&T was "firing one of the first shots in the net neutrality war" by blocking the site. Meanwhile, the Tech Herald reported that several users took AT&T's actions to be related to network neutrality and not related to legitimate network management concerns.

Broadly speaking, net neutrality is the principle that ISPs should not be allowed to block or degrade Internet traffic from their competitors in order to speed up their own. The major telcos have uniformly opposed net neutrality by arguing that such government intervention would take away ISPs' incentives to upgrade their networks, thus stalling the widespread deployment of broadband Internet.

But despite the telcos' objections, the U.S. government has explicitly endorsed net neutrality principles in its latest notice. In addition to requiring applicants to follow the 2005 FCC policy statement, the rules explicitly state that applicants are not allowed to "favor any lawful Internet applications or content over others." The rules do make exceptions for companies that want to offer their own managed services such as telemedicine and long-distance learning, but they also state that such services must use private connections or virtual private networks instead of the public Internet.

This story, "AT&T blocks image-sharing site, sparks net neutrality row" was originally published by Network World.


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