AT&T backs Google-Verizon Net neutrality deal

US telco AT&T has come out in support of the agreement on Net neutrality reached by search giant Google with AT&T's biggest rival, Verizon.

The deal, outlined in a joint statement released last week, accepts the principle that all traffic should be treated equally when it comes to wired, fixed-line Internet connections - but crucially leaves the way open for wireless providers to prioritise traffic over mobile networks. Critics have also accused the pair of trying to redefine what the Internet is, by upholding the right of providers to supply premium, priority services outside the scope of the publicly accessible Net.

The two companies' negotiations caused US telecoms watchdog the FCC to call off wider talks, and have threatened a schism within the industry. Last week, social networking giant Facebook waded into the argument, declaring its continuing support for Net neutrality on both wireless and fixed-line networks.

Now AT&T has entered the fray, defending Google and Verizon's position, and insisting in a statement that wireless communications are fundamentally different from fixed-line Internet access.

The firm claims that mobile networks offer only a fraction of the bandwidth of fibre-optic infrastructure, and traffic prioritisation is necessary to make the most of their resources.

AT&T said policy makers should help by "protecting wireless broadband networks from onerous new Net neutrality regulations".

Presumably, the company would also like to be protected from any potential dip in its currently vast earnings. The network provider last year posted profits of $123 billion.

In separate news, Google has faced continued protest over its stance on Net neutrality, with around 100 protesters gathering to picket outside its headquarters in Mountain View, California on Saturday.