Exposing Some Myths about
Google’s Set-Top Box Proposal

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 16, 2016 at 10:04 am

By Stacy Fuller, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory

In the set-top box debate that has erupted, there is a clear and widely supported desire to give consumers an alternative to leased set-top boxes.  Everyone wants consumers to have more choices, and we are moving in that direction.

Apps from pay-TV providers are now available alongside apps from streaming services on more than 450 million consumer-owned devices. Our customers can already use AT&T/DIRECTV apps on phones, tablets, game consoles and televisions today, and we intend to accelerate that vision in our drive to mobilize video.  Finding an alternative to the set-top box and creating more paths to innovation is a goal I believe everyone can get behind.

There are also a couple of other areas in which I think everyone agrees.

First, whichever way we pivot, it has to be towards a platform that protects consumer privacy.  Whatever solution we choose, the rules protecting consumers’ data should not vary depending on what company controls the device they use to access our services.  Second, we want to encourage more growth in minority and niche programming, not less.  We must ensure that the minority programming that exists today can be easily found tomorrow.  If such programming is moved to page 3 (or page 30) of the new Google video search, what impact will that have on those programmers and their future?

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A Note from Base Camp

Posted by: Joan Marsh on February 10, 2016 at 9:25 am

Last week while speaking at a spectrum conference, Gary Epstein, Chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force observed that progress on the incentive auction can be compared to climbing a mountain. With the rules complete and as we move toward the auction start date, the collective group of auction climbers are essentially now at base camp awaiting the final ascent to the summit, which will begin March 29.  But as everyone who has read Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” knows, the ascent to the peak is one of the most dangerous parts of the climb and the descent can also be lethal.

With the quiet period about to commence, as we sit at base camp, I offer a few final thoughts on the auction.

Surely we can all agree that much has been accomplished – perhaps more than many thought possible.  The auction rules are firmly in place, the FCC has been releasing a steady stream of data file formats, applications are being filed and workshops are underway to educate auction participants. The FCC auction team has climbed tirelessly to reach this point and all the stakeholders impacted by the auction have climbed tirelessly along with them.

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AT&T CEO on President Obama’s
New Cybersecurity Plan

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 9, 2016 at 11:24 am

The following statement may be attributed to Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO:

“We applaud the White House’s new national action plan to strengthen our country’s defenses against cybersecurity attacks that threaten our online privacy and our economy. The security of our digital economy and individual privacy requires end-to-end protection at every level and device connected to the Internet. We look forward to working with the Administration, Congress and others in the private sector to implement the most advanced cybersecurity protections and practices, and raise awareness of how individuals can best protect themselves online.”

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Jim Cicconi Reflects on 20 Years
Under 1996 Telecommunications Act

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 8, 2016 at 11:51 am

To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the Federal Communications Law Journal (FCLJ) has compiled 32 essays from people who were “involved in the Act’s drafting, implementation, and attendant legal challenges.”  Below is an excerpt from a piece written by Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs:

Passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 offers great perspective on today’s political and policy gridlock in Washington.  It signified a moment in time when an Administration and far-sighted legislators from both parties, holding different perspectives, but all keenly interested in the dawning Internet age, joined ranks to craft a statute that was far-reaching in its scope and visionary in its impact.

At bottom, the framers of the ’96 Act embraced a wise humility toward technology and its future development. They were conscious of the Communications Act of 1934’s sixty-year legacy, and wanted their work to last. It took nearly six years over three Congressional sessions to negotiate, compromise, draft and re-draft what ultimately became the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and their work provided a roadmap for the future of the nation’s communications landscape.

Indeed, the framers of the Act did their work better than they perhaps knew, piloting the ship of telecommunications policy through a foggy harbor into an open and unknown sea towards a destination of today’s cross platform communications marketplace. In retrospect, it is easy to forget how different things looked at the advent of the Internet. Back then, a consumer reached the Internet over a slow, twisted pair telephone line. The incumbent telephone companies who provided those lines were just starting to see the effects of competitive entry into their markets. Back then, the companies that comprised the current AT&T operated just over 70,000,000 switched access voice telephone lines. We didn’t provide any video services, and DIRECTV had just passed 1,000,000 video subscribers in the United States. The entire cellular industry had just over 44 million subscribers in the United States. The cable companies had not yet entered the voice market. The Internet existed but, broadband was still off in the future. It was a world where the dominant companies were traditional telephone companies, like Southwestern Bell, BellSouth, NYNEX and Bell Atlantic. Facebook, Google, and Twitter didn’t exist (Mark Zuckerberg was 11 years old when the Act passed). Apple was foundering in the wake of Microsoft’s dominance, having fired Steve Jobs eight years earlier.

The complete essay is available here.



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While the Future of TV is Apps, the FCC is Locked in the Box of the Past

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 3, 2016 at 6:00 am

By Stacy Fuller, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory

Google has proposed that the FCC impose a new technology mandate on all pay-TV providers (MVPDs) purportedly “to ensure the commercial availability of navigation devices used by consumers to access services from MVPDs.”  Based upon press coverage, the FCC seems enamored with that misguided proposal.  Instead of just listening to a few favored companies hoping to game the system solely for their own financial advantage, the FCC should take a look around at the abundance of competitive options the market is delivering to consumers today.

In my house alone – and trust me, I am far from tech-savvy – I can access DIRECTV, as well as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other over-the-top (OTT) services on my tablet, computer, mobile phone and TV. I need only one gateway set-top box (STB) in my home that works with all of our televisions (without additional STBs on each set) through an “open standard” called RVU.  AT&T U-verse and other pay-TV and OTT services are available on the Xbox.   I didn’t even mention Roku, Google Chromecast, Kindle Fire and Apple TV – there are more than 450 million retail devices and counting in use that can receive pay-TV and OTT services.  More than that, virtually every content provider on the planet has an app to provide consumers with access to its content.  The video “app” model has enabled consumer choice without any need for government or regulatory mandates.  Indeed, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, “the future of TV is apps.” (Emphasis added)

As the market for video has become even more competitive, consumers have more choices than ever to watch what they want, when they want it and on the device of their choosing anywhere they happen to be. Apps have enabled such competition by enabling content companies to directly reach their consumers.  Apps have enabled smart phone, television, tablet, computer and game console manufacturers to provide their distinct user interfaces, features and functionality.  At the same time, apps respect the ability of Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, PlayStation Vue and many others to compete through their own user interfaces, features, and functionalities when a consumer chooses their app.

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