AT&T Silences Pearl Jam; Gives 'Net Neutrality' Proponents Ammunition

AT&T’s (NYSE: T) “content monitor” hit the mute button during part of Pearl Jam’s “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast sponsored by the telecom, depriving viewers of some anti-George Bush lyrics — and handing live ammunition to “net neutrality” proponents in the form of an almost perfect example of what they predict will happen if a few companies are allowed to control the broadband pipeline. Almost perfect because what happened here was the act of AT&T as a content provider bleeping out content it was sponsoring and delivering — not depriving people of content someone else wanted delivered. (Yes, I know, if AT&T would do that to one of its own shows, just imagine … )

Pearl Jam responded angrily, laying out the case for net neutrality and linking to proponent sites, posting the edited and un-edited YouTube video versions of the moment and asking fans for any other examples of AT&T’s “censoring” political speech. From the group’s blog: “But what if there is only one provider from which to choose? If a company that is controlling a webcast is cutting out bits of our performance — not based on laws, but on their own preferences and interpretations — fans have little choice but to watch the censored version. What happened to us this weekend was a wake up call, and it’s about something much bigger than the censorship of a rock band.” The band also said it will work “even harder: to make sure its live broadcasts and webcasts aren’t subject to arbitrary edits.

AT&T, as you might expect, is trying damage control. In notices posted on the Blue Room site, AT&T says the muting was a “a major mistake by a webcast vendor and completely contrary to our policy. We are working closely with the vendor and the band to post the song in its entirety on this site and ensure that this does not happen again.”

— Savethe Internet.com provides an example of the incident as rallying cry.

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