Democrat lawmakers attacked AT&T for allegedly giving “preferential treatment” to certain streaming services, continuing a pattern of attacks on alleged internet filtering by telecoms companies while ignoring the “preferential treatment” afforded to certain types of content by big tech companies like Google, Apple, Amazon and others.
In a letter to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CN) accused the telecoms company of maintaining a “policy of favoring a specific streaming service in a manner that appears to runs contrary to your stated support for a free and open internet.”
The Democrat senators pointed to AT&T exempting HBO Max from customers’ data charges while applying usage charges to Netflix and Disney Plus.
“This practice of allowing one arm of your company to ‘pay’ another arm of your company for preferential treatment attempts to mask its true impact,” wrote the senators.
The same Democrat senators have been silent on “preferential treatment” by non-telecoms tech companies, and have attacked President Donald Trump for trying to curb their rampant political bias.
Examples of “preferential treatment” ignored by the Democrats include YouTube’s decision to block Apple’s in-app subscriptions from its platform earlier this year, Amazon reportedly giving preferential treatment to its own products vs. those of third-party sellers, Apple allegedly favoring its own iTunes music streaming service over Spotify, and Google’s decision to block its YouTube app from Amazon devices.
On top of this, big tech companies like Google regularly favor certain types of political content. YouTube, for example, adjusted its search results on key political topics in a manner that boosted content from left-wing and mainstream sources.
Nevertheless, both Sen. Wyden and Sen. Blumenthal, who are attacking AT&T this week over “preferential treatment,” have opposed the President’s efforts to tackle political favoritism in big tech.
“He’s clearly targeting Section 230 because it protects private businesses’ right not to have to play host to his lies,” said Sen. Wyden last month. Sen. Blumenthal, meanwhile, condemned Trump’s executive order on social media censorship as “a blatant attempt to use the full power of the United States government to force private companies to lie for him.”
In a comment, AT&T denied Democrat allegations that it unfairly favors HBO Max.
“Our wireless subscribers can stream HBO Max video without incurring data charges, which will save money for millions of consumers,” said a spokesperson for the telecoms company. “This is based on a Sponsored Data arrangement and is a program we offer on the same terms to any entities who wish to sponsor data for their customers. This is similar to arrangements some of our competitors have. We continue to support an open internet and have done so for more than a decade.”
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.