Is the new AT&T chief a Whitacre clone?

Randall Stephenson today steps into his new role as chief executive officer of AT&T, taking over from Ed Whitacre, the executive who unwittingly kicked off the ongoing national debate over net neutrality.

What will Stephenson’s appointment mean for the battle between Internet freedom advocates and companies like AT&T that are working to eliminate longstanding Net Neutrality principles that forbid Internet providers from discriminating against online traffic on the basis of its source or destination?

Not much, according to new Common Cause report that takes a look at Stephenson. Among the findings:

. Last year, Stephenson told Forbes magazine that he believes Congress should allow, for the first time in the history of the Internet, a two-tier system to be created. “You’ve got YouTube and Google dumping unbelievable traffic on here,” he complained.

. In 2005, Stephenson was asked whether his DSL customers would be able to watch live video from any website. “Oh no,” Stephenson declared. “We’re going to control the video on our network. The content guys will have to make a deal with us.”

. Stephenson brings more to the job than 25 years as a company man: he also has access to the Bush White House. He has served for several years, and is currently the vice chairman of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC).

. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 97 percent of Stephenson’s political contributions have gone to Republicans, including Representative Joe Barton, the Ranking Member of the House Commerce Committee, who last year sponsored a major piece of legislation that would have eliminated net neutrality.

Common Cause is asking its members to file comments with the Federal Communications Commission, urging the agency to uphold net neutrality. More than 20,000 activists have already submitted their comments, according to Lauren Coletta, director of media programs at Common Cause. “The Commission hears regularly from executives like AT&T’s Randall Stephenson,” said Coletta. “We want to ensure that the public is aware of and involved in the debate over Internet freedom.”

Click below to read the Common Cause report about Randall Stephenson:

Click below to learn more about Net Neutrality: