AT&T’s Anti-Infringement Patent

AT&T’s recent patent to detect and act on network-based copyright infringement raises significant red flags for network neutrality advocates. However, we need to look beyond the most obvious (and nefarious!) red flags: when examining corporate surveillance prospects we need to reflect on the full range of reasons behind the practice. Only in taking this broader, and often more nuanced, view are we likely to come closer to the truth of what is actually going on, and why. And, if we don’t get closer to the specific truth of the situation, at least we can better understand the battleground and likely terms of the conflict.


… it is worth continuing to ask whether the problem is solely, or even mostly, spectrum. The large wireless carriers could also increase the information-carrying capacity of their networks by building more towers and connecting them to fiber rather than copper wires. Today, even though 97.8 percent of the U.S. population has 3G coverage, more than 80 percent of cell sites are still connected to copper wires. But since the goal of any private company seeking Wall Street investment is to achieve the same levels of revenue (or more) while laying out less money, spending on “backhaul” (connections between towers and Internet access points) has not been a high priority. The problem in wireless transmission, therefore, is probably the wires and the towers, not spectrum. Executive compensation and quarterly results trump higher-quality service every time.

Susan Crawford, Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age