Starting tomorrow, if you're an AT&T Internet or TV customer, the company will officially own your account records. Under AT&T's new privacy policy, customer information is a business record. It can be disclosed to the government to protect what the company calls legitimate business interests.


That information includes a customer's name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. The changes come as AT&T, and other phone companies, face lawsuits claiming they aided a U.S. government domestic spying program by providing customer records. But AT&T says the new policy is not related to spying.

INSKEEP: Here in Washington, today, the Senate Commerce Committee is considering something else that may affect your Internet use. They take up the issue of network neutrality, which would guarantee equal access to the Internet for everyone.

We're going to hear now from Craig Newmark who started craigslist, the Website popular for finding everything from a cheap sofa to a cheap date. In the second of two commentaries on net neutrality, he says the Internet needs to be fair.

Mr. CRAIG NEWMARK (Founder, craigslist): Most Americans believe that if you play fair and work hard, you'll get ahead; and this applies to the internet, which is, more or less, a level playing field for everyone. We call it net neutrality.

Right now, you can start a business on the net. You place a server somewhere, and you have an equal shot at serving customers well. However, execs at big telecoms, they want to create a system of privilege for people who can pay more. Here's an example if we apply this idea to the phone system.

Let's say you call Joe's Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. Would that be fair?

The telecom execs tell us they can be trusted to play fair and not extend privileges unfairly. These guys forget that they get the use of public resources, like airwaves and public rights-of-way. They've built their businesses on our resources and made a lot of money. The telecom and cable guys say, don't worry; trust us. But have they earned that trust?

Consider: Why do the telecom companies block some high-tech services on reaching our cell phones? Or how about the fake grassroots Websites the telecom industry has set up to support its cause. These sites send a consistent message, and its not that the sponsors are trustworthy. They're into truthiness, not trust.

The telecom execs claim they need lots of cash to build an infrastructure, but forget to tell us that most of the investment has already been made in what's called dark fiber. The expensive part - laying the wires - has already been paid for.

They say that keeping the net neutral, as it is now, involves more government intervention and regulation, but really the opposite is true. Let's keep the net as it is now: neutral, fair and free.

INSKEEP: Commentary from Craig Newmark, the founder of craigslist.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from