AT&T and Other I.S.P.’s May Be Getting Ready to Filter

For the last 15 years, Internet service providers have acted – to use an old cliche – as wide-open information super-highways, letting data flow uninterrupted and unimpeded between users and the Internet.

But I.S.P.’s may be about to embrace a new metaphor: traffic cop.

At a small panel discussion about digital piracy at NBC’s booth on the Consumer Electronics Show floor, representatives from NBC, Microsoft, several digital filtering companies and the telecom giant AT&T said the time was right to start filtering for copyrighted content at the network level.

Such filtering for pirated material already occurs on sites like YouTube and Microsoft’s Soapbox, and on some university networks.

Network-level filtering means your Internet service provider – Comcast, AT&T, EarthLink, or whoever you send that monthly check to – could soon start sniffing your digital packets, looking for material that infringes on someone’s copyright.

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