Answering the Call on Robocalling

Posted by: Bob Quinn on July 25, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Last week, AT&T’s Chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson, received a letter from Chairman Wheeler addressing the robocalls that continue to plague our industry and our customers.  AT&T agrees that decisive action is needed. Indeed, AT&T has separately called for the development of comprehensive and industry-wide solutions to address these unwanted, illegal and often fraudulent calls.

As the letter noted, telecommunications providers must play a vital role in attacking the robocalling problem and AT&T is prepared to take a leadership position in the industry in the development of comprehensive solutions. We currently allow many of our customers to block calls using black-listing software like Nomorobo and we are committed to providing our customers with the best blocking tools available for use with their knowledge and consent.

But call blocking alone will not address the problem as robocallers continue to develop ways to evade established filters and black lists. To effectively stem the tide of these calls, the communications industry – network providers, handset makers and device OS developers alike – must work together to ensure that only calls from legitimate callers and those associated with legitimate and unaltered numbers are sent to consumer phones.

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TOPICS: Consumers, FCC
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AT&T Statement on FCC’s 5G
Spectrum Frontiers Report and Order

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm

The following statement may be attributed to Joan Marsh, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“Today, the FCC made a big down payment on the next generation of wireless innovation in the United States.  5G technologies, which will offer very low latency and gigabit speeds, will fuel a new era of investment in advanced wireless services, and the mmWave spectrum bands authorized today will serve as the launch pad for 5G development and deployment in the U.S.

“The Order, which is the result of months of advocacy, reflects regulatory compromises designed to permit new 5G services while accommodating the business plans of incumbent licensees. A careful review of the Order will be necessary to understand the balance struck between the competing interests, but we believe that the FCC’s actions today will provide the clarity needed to move forward with confidence with 5G trials and development, ensuring continued U.S. leadership in wireless innovation and services.”

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Robocalls: A Problem We All Need To Solve

Posted by: Bob Quinn on July 6, 2016 at 3:06 pm

You’re trying to sit down to dinner, but the phone won’t stop ringing. And it’s not friends, family or the office. It’s another unwanted recorded call pitching you a product you don’t want. Or, worse, attempting to scam you with, say, a phony tax bill. The same technology that allows you to stay connected with friends and family on the internet also has made it easier for illegal communications to flourish, including unwanted and illegal robocalling.

We’re working hard to develop tools to shut down these calls. But this is an industry-wide problem because any call from one person to another usually touches the networks of multiple companies. Which is why we’re calling for a comprehensive, industry-wide approach to address unwanted and illegal robocalls. We’re encouraging the deployment of new technology along with increased law enforcement involvement and prosecution of offenders to deal with the particularly troubling issue of illegal calls.

I am on the Do Not Call list. Why do I receive any unwanted telephone marketing calls?

Since 2003, Americans have been able to opt out of receiving most telemarketing calls by putting their phone numbers on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry. But there are important exceptions for some organizations: calls from political parties, campaigns and candidates; calls from non-profits and charities; calls from legitimate “survey” organizations because they are not offering to sell anything to consumers; and calls from companies with which you have done or sought to do business. Any of those organizations are permitted to call you even though you are on the Do Not Call list. In addition, bad guys and fraudsters don’t pay any attention to the Do Not Call list.

What is a robocall?

If the phone rings and a recorded message is on the other end, you are receiving a robocall. In 2009, the FTC established new rules prohibiting most prerecorded or automated calls unless the caller had the consumers’ prior written approval. Thus, if you haven’t given your written permission to receive that call, the call is illegal and very often being made to perpetrate fraud.  Autodialers are now commonly used to initiate thousands of phone calls a minute for a very low cost.  And as federal regulators have discovered, tracking and stopping these calls is extremely challenging.  Many originate overseas; we estimate that at least 50% of these calls use caller ID info that is spoofed to look like a friendly or local caller; and once caught, many fraudsters simply change their corporate identity and resume illegal operations on a new network or with a new caller identity. But as with the Do Not Call list, there are exceptions here, too, including exemptions for political parties and candidates; emergency alerts; and pending rules that would permit the federal government (and certain government contractors) to use robocall technology to contact you regarding federal debts or federally guaranteed debts (i.e., tax bills, student loans).

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Verizon Yesterday versus Today:
New Wires, Old Rules?

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on June 30, 2016 at 11:55 am

By Caroline Van Wie, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory

As comments in the special access proceeding (oops, I mean Business Data Services proceeding) roll in, I thought I would put together a few sentences which accurately capture AT&T’s views on this proceeding:

“[T]here is no basis on which to increase regulation of ILEC business broadband services, including legacy special access and Ethernet.  [T]here is no evidence supporting a finding that ILEC rates for traditional TDM-based special access services (e.g., DS1 and DS3) are unjust and unreasonable.  There is no factual basis to support a finding of market power or market failure in the business broadband marketplace.  According to the Commission’s data, competitors have deployed networks capable of providing high-capacity services in all metropolitan areas throughout the country that contain concentrated demand for these services. Although the Commission’s data understate the extent of actual and potential competition, even with these shortcomings these data show competitors have deployed networks capable of providing high-capacity services in all metropolitan areas throughout the country that contain concentrated demand for these services. Despite these problems [with the 2013 data], the record confirms competitors have deployed facilities in large and small areas throughout the country — not only in downtown areas, but in all types of locations where there is concentrated demand for high-capacity services. The record also shows a wide range of providers and significant new entry, including from cable operators, and that different types of competitors are succeeding in this marketplace, using a wide array of high capacity services. Even  based on the outdated and incomplete record here, the evidence of competition where there is concentrated demand includes steadily declining retail prices; mass migration from legacy technologies (TDM) to new ones (Ethernet and broadband IP) that offer greater quality and value; disruptive facilities-based entry by cable companies; growing use of alternative technologies such as best-efforts broadband and fixed wireless; the continued growth of traditional CLECs; and the indisputable competitiveness of downstream markets, such as wireless, in which providers use business broadband services as an input.”

“[T]he record demonstrates the Commission’s analysis should include all forms of high-capacity services that customers are using to meet their needs, which includes not just legacy TDM-based special access services but also Ethernet services and best-efforts broadband services offered by cable.  For many customers, best-efforts broadband service provides a greater value proposition than dedicated services of comparable bandwidth, and the need for features such as ‘99.99 percent uptime,’ ‘the ability to prioritize traffic among different Quality of Service (‘QoS’) levels for different applications,’ and low jitter and latency is not worth the premium. Cable companies routinely market their best-efforts broadband services as an alternative to dedicated services such as DS1, and many business customers view them as competitive alternatives to legacy TDM-based dedicated services. . . .  The Commission cannot simply exclude best-efforts broadband services because they are not functionally identical to dedicated services.”

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Wireline Bureau BDS Document Dump

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on June 29, 2016 at 4:21 pm

The following may be attributed to Bob Quinn, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“For months, the FCC has been pushing aside the APA and due process in this proceeding. This is especially troubling when the policies the agency seems to be pursuing will have such a devastating impact on the incentives of all companies to invest in fiber infrastructure in the United States. Over and over, the Commission has modified and updated data that are supposed to be the foundation of its analysis without allowing parties sufficient time to adjust to the constantly moving target.  Yesterday, the Commission released the peer review responses to its third-party economist’s study (the study which constitutes the analytical core of its NPRM) two months after they were received by the Commission, and on the same day comments on the NPRM were due.  The Commission did this despite having assured all parties that it would release the peer review data when completed, which should have been two months ago.

“To put it another way, the FCC released an NPRM which it knew (at the time of release) was based on a study that peer review had determined was flawed. It then required the industry to file comments on that flawed study. And once comments were filed, the Commission performed a huge data dump on the industry (which we will now have to unpack and comment upon) containing these previously withheld peer reviews and additional analyses that purport to respond to them.  Moreover, instead of having their hired third party economist address the comments from his peers on his paper, the Commission assigned that task to the same FCC staff which will write the final rules in this proceeding.  This is completely unorthodox and defeats the entire purpose of having a third party study in the first place.

“Whatever the FCC’s excuse for delaying the release of this critical data, the lack of due process only reinforces that this agency is driving to reach a pre-ordained outcome. This is the very thing that is not supposed to happen under the Administrative Procedures Act.  Rather than arriving at a sound policy decision based on unbiased factual analysis, the Commission seems determined to once again put its thumb on the scale, picking winners and losers in the market based on their own arbitrary predetermined interests.  Further, the agency appears to be ignoring the Commission’s statutorily required processes in order to achieve that desired result.   Actions like this ultimately tarnish the agency’s reputation and leave the Commission open to claims that it is merely carrying out a politically motivated agenda rather than acting as an independent agency operating in accordance with the APA.  The FCC may be in a hurry to check every box on its agenda before January, but that in no way excuses the process abuses we are seeing.”

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