Banning Paid Prioritization within a Viable and Sustainable Framework

Posted by: Bob Quinn on July 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Today, we filed comments at the FCC supporting the Commission’s attempt to re-craft the net neutrality rules that were vacated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Verizon v. FCC.  In short, we have laid out a viable and sustainable framework utilizing Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act, which re-establishes the balance achieved by the 2010 Open Internet Order, including banning paid prioritization – where an ISP prioritizes packets over the consumer’s last mile broadband Internet access service without being directed to perform that prioritization by the consumer.  Paid prioritization has been at the heart of the net neutrality debate since it began in earnest over a decade ago (AT&T has blogged several times on this point in earlier iterations of this debate).  We disagree with those critics who claim that the Commission cannot ban paid prioritization under Section 706 and explain why they are wrong as well as why it would be much more difficult to justify a similar ban of paid prioritization under Title II.

AT&T also supported the FCC’s 2010 rules, including the ones which were ultimately vacated by the Verizon court.  We recognized then, and now, that those rules represented a purposeful and careful balance between ensuring the openness of the Internet and promoting the continued massive infrastructure investments necessary to deliver to American consumers the ever increasing amount of bandwidth needed by the enormously innovative products and services being created in technology communities across the United States.  The FCC reached this balance by utilizing a form of light touch regulation under Section 706 rather than decades-old Title II utility regulation requirements – requirements that would actually impose barriers to broadband infrastructure investment in contravention of Section 706.

History itself tells us that the FCC’s balanced, light touch approach was the right approach because it actually worked.  As the FCC has noted, from 2009 onwards, wireline and wireless broadband providers have invested more than $250 billion in broadband infrastructure.  On the other side of the equation, the Internet has remained open and consumers have accessed a dizzying array of new content, services and applications.  That is the environment that every public policymaker should want to preserve.

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AT&T Statement on House Passage of Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 15, 2014 at 5:04 pm

The following statement may be attributed to Tim McKone, AT&T Executive Vice President of Federal Relations:

“AT&T commends the House of Representatives for its passage of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, legislation that will continue to prohibit states from taxing access to the Internet.  With the vote today, the House declared that all Americans will have access to the Internet unencumbered by unwarranted taxes.

“We applaud Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) for their efforts to permanently extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act, and we encourage the Senate to quickly pass legislation.”

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The Roaming Marketplace is Working

Posted by: Joan Marsh on July 11, 2014 at 9:21 am

T-Mobile, which advertises itself as the “un-carrier,” has asked the FCC to “un-do” its data roaming rules, which were established in 2011 to facilitate reasonable data roaming arrangements while continuing to incent network investments.  T-Mobile now asks for a “declaratory ruling” which would effectively eviscerate that FCC decision and run afoul of the D.C. Circuit case which upheld it.

The Commission carefully crafted its data roaming rules to balance two important goals:  ensuring that mobile wireless providers can obtain data roaming arrangements on reasonable terms while preserving incentives to invest in broadband networks.  T-Mobile’s proposals would undo that careful balance, resulting in prescriptive rate “benchmarks” and other policies designed to allow T-Mobile to continue to rely on data roaming in lieu of investing in and extending its own broadband networks.

There is no justification for granting T-Mobile’s petition –  in fact, according to T-Mobile’s own economist, wholesale roaming rates have trended “downward strongly” in recent years, and the average wholesale roaming rates paid by T-Mobile have fallen nearly 70 percent since 2011 and continue to decline.  There is also evidence that commercial negotiations are producing a variety of terms to meet differing needs, including the highly-touted LTE roaming hub T-Mobile’s own trade association (CCA) has established with scores of rural carriers to “help Sprint and T-Mobile fill the holes in their network[s].”  Sprint currently relies on the Hub to extend its roaming coverage by 34 million people in 23 states.

Notably, T-Mobile has not cited a single instance where a provider anywhere in the country has found it necessary to file a formal complaint with the Commission alleging an inability to obtain commercially reasonable terms.  Indeed, when taken as a whole, T-Mobile’s petition evinces a well-functioning market for wholesale data roaming services with which the Commission should be loathe to interfere.

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‘911’ Location Accuracy:
Getting to Dispatchable Addresses

Posted by: Joan Marsh on June 27, 2014 at 11:39 am

TruePosition recently commissioned and produced a test report purporting to show that its proprietary technology can meet the FCC’s proposed benchmarks for locating wireless 911 callers horizontally and vertically indoors.  The tests were run on a test bed in Wilmington, Delaware outside the context of the established CSRIC process specifically designed to assess new “911” location technologies.  And although TruePosition claims the test relied on commercial off-the-shelf technologies, it did not and the technologies used by TruePosition are not fully supported in any wireless network today.  Moreover, the technology used would not provide complete location information in that it does not have the capability to provide a vertical estimate of location.  Indeed, TruePosition simply ignored that component of the FCC’s proposed rules as someone else’s problem to fix, while enthusiastically encouraging the FCC to adopt unachievable regulations for carriers to meet.

Beyond these significant limitations, the testing highlights even bigger concerns.  The fact is that the approach proposed by TruePosition is, at the core, antithetical to the design of modern 3G and 4G networks.  TruePosition’s proposed solution depends on hardware installed at each base station seeing the handsets being served by other base stations. Modern wireless networks are designed to minimize the number of base stations interacting with a handset to prevent interference. TruePosition simply ignores this design feature by proposing a solution, yet undefined in industry standards bodies, that would require wireless carriers to essentially “power up” a handset during a “911” call.  They also ignore the potential for the untenable interference that such an approach would likely create.

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Illuminating the Possibilities

Posted by: Joan Marsh on June 18, 2014 at 10:32 am

Yesterday, in the FCC’s Incentive Auction proceeding, AT&T filed a computational study that seeks to provide insights into some fundamental and essential auction questions – namely, for any given clearing target, what might a successful auction look like in terms of how many broadcasters must participate and in what markets?  And, how much diversity is there in the solution sets necessary for a successful outcome and, how are adjacent markets correlated?

As important and interesting as these questions are, to date scant analysis on these questions has been offered.  The research submitted today, authored by Michael Kearns and Lili Dworkin of the University of Pennsylvania, will help address that void.

The study attempts to ask and answer a series of straight-forward mathematical questions like:  how many broadcasters need to participate in the New York City designated market area (DMA) to clear 84 MHz of spectrum?  How do those numbers change if you take the FCC’s published domain constraints into consideration?  If you assume an 84 MHz clearing target, how many markets, on average, will require some level of broadcaster participation?

Given the complexity of the auction, the answers are rarely black and white.  For any clearing target, there are almost unlimited variations on possible broadcaster participation and a very large number of possible repacking solutions.  But from the research, an outline of the scope of the possible begins to emerge.

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