Web 2.0 Summit: AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson
What is Net neutrality? This from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, one of its staunches opponents, and the guy who paid Lent Scrivner & Roth LLC $100,000 to lobby against it in the first half of 2007.
Onstage at Web 2.0 Summit, Stephenson again argues for a two-tiered Internet, rehashing the incumbent telecoms’ talking points. Net neutrality=BAD. Telecoms deserve the option, he says, to charge some users more money for loading certain content or Web sites faster than others. “We all want the same thing,” says Stephenson. “We all want this Internet thing to grow. But I don’t want anyone to interfere in how we monetize our investment. You shouldn’t regulate something until there is a problem.”
Moving on to the iPhone and AT&T’s partnership with Apple. “How’s the iPhone deal going,” conference co-sponsor John Battelle asks. Going great, replies Stephenson. “Not sure I could have asked for more from it than I’ve got.”
“Some people are a little … unhappy with AT&T’s EDGE service,” says Battelle. “Why isn’t it better and when will it be better?”
“Well, [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs wanted it on the EDGE network. He wanted a broad ubiquitous data network. I don’t particularly like the speed; 3G is a lot better, but Wi-Fi is a pretty darn good surrogate.”
Apparently, Stephenson doesn’t use an iPhone.
Battelle asks about Stephenson’s feelings about Google. “You [AT&T] have a $250 billion market cap, $117 billion in revenue. They have $200 billion in market cap, on revenues that are about 10% of that. How do you feel about that?”
“I’m envious,” says Stephenson.
Battelle pushes a bit harder. “Are they riding your capital investment [on telecom infrastructure]?”
Stephenson concedes, “Of course,” he says.
“Does it tick you off?”
Unflappable, this Stephenson.
One last exchange worth noting here. Battelle asks Stephenson about claims of government access to AT&T user data. Stephenson ducks for cover and offers this terse reply: “The law is clear on this: I can’t comment on matters of national security. The law is also clear on how we respond to requests from law-enforcement agencies.”