AT&T Going to Provide a Filtered Internet all in the Name of Copyright Protection?

David Isenberg talks on his blog about how AT&T is going to filter all of the internet they provide looking for copyright violations. He importantly teases apart the difference between filtering for copyright violations and general network congestion management:

I nominate the end-user to make the decision. If, as I propose above, Internet access providers were to provide explicitly different tiers of service for different, explicitly laid out throughput plans charged at different rates, the user could make that decision. And it would be a free market decision that even a libertarian would love. The carrier would need to decide whether to (a) eat the cost of upgrading its infrastructure to allay the risk of losing customers to bad performance or (b) implement tiered service to save network upgrade costs but risk losing customers who don’t like paying for tiered service. But, hey, that’s business.

Carriers know all this. But, as it turns out, they don’t want to frame the picture simply because they don’t want to be in the Stupid Network business. They’re addicted to adding value. They’ve convinced one class of customers, music and movie moguls, that they can add value for them. Importantly to the carriers, the value they propose to add is network-resident value; the return of the Intelligent Network. Network-resident value is business as usual, even when it imposes huge costs on the rest of society. This is why they persist in framing the two issues as inter-related.

Harold Feld also has weighed in on David Weinberger’s blog:

Which leads to my final point. The very idea of traffic control is that you have to give the ISP the power to decide what is best. But wouldn’t it actually MAXIMIZE network efficiency to treat capacity as a spot market and let users decide? This does not require any great sophistication (assuming the right software). Furthermore, because we keep hearing that it is a relatively few number of sophisticated “bandwidth hogs” that are causing all the heartburn, altering the incentives of these few highly sophisticated actors to change their behaviors will have a substantial global effect.

But the Telcos and Cable Cos do not like this choice, because they want to own the customer.