FCC Hosts first Robocall Strike Force Meeting; AT&T’s Stephenson to Chair Industry-Led Group

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 19, 2016 at 9:50 am

The following are remarks by AT&T Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson as prepared for delivery at the first Robocall Strike Force Meeting at the Federal Communications Commission on August 19, 2016:

Thank you, Chairman Wheeler. Good morning, everyone. I want to recognize the Chairman for proposing this strike force.  And I want to recognize and thank all the companies here today.  The 33 companies and organizations on the Strike Force represent the entire communications ecosystem.

The fact that we are all here speaks to the breadth and complexity of the robocall problem. This is going to require more than individual company initiatives and one-off blocking apps.  Robocallers are a formidable adversary, notoriously hard to stop.  And technology such as spoofing makes it easier for them to work around our various fixes and hide their tracks.  So far, we’ve all been coming at this problem piecemeal with limited success, because robocalls continue to increase.

This strike force will need to take a different approach. If we truly want to deal with this, the entire ecosystem has to work together – carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers.  And don’t forget, regulators and lawmakers have a role to play.  We have to come out of this with a comprehensive play book for all of us to go execute.

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AT&T Statement on Court Decision Overturning FCC on Muni Broadband

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 10, 2016 at 2:59 pm

The following may be attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs:

“This case was never about the best way to get broadband into rural communities. It was about whether the FCC had legal authority to preempt state law.  Despite clear Supreme Court precedent, and without explicit preemption authority in the statute – which the Supreme Court has said is necessary – the FCC nonetheless went forward.  Tellingly, the Justice Department declined to defend the FCC’s actions in court.

“Now that the 6th Circuit has declared the FCC’s actions invalid, the agency should avoid creating further uncertainty in this area. We hope the FCC will instead refocus on its own conclusions and recommendations as laid out in its excellent National Broadband Plan.  If it does, the FCC will find a ready partner in America’s broadband industry.”

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The FCC Seizes the Reins on Privacy: Observations from Our Summer Internship

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm

By Lindsey Knapton, Alex McLeod, Sean Vallancourt, AT&T Summer Interns 

(The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the student authors and are not attributable to AT&T)

When we each arrived at AT&T’s DC offices earlier this summer for our internships, we knew that we would have a front seat for policy discussions around some of the most hotly debated topics, including net neutrality, privacy and the march toward 5G wireless technologies. Little did we know the discussions would take such an interesting turn after the D.C. Circuit released its long awaited net neutrality decision. While some claimed victory, others were left with unanswered questions regarding the Court’s decision. In US Telecom v. FCC, the Court allowed the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) offerings as telecommunications services rather than information services. The Court also determined that mobile broadband services are now commercial rather than private because mobile broadband is an interconnected service that is a part of the new public switched network that includes IP addresses. These decisions, which deviate from FCC precedent regarding ISPs and broadband Internet access services, were only marginally explained in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order. Yet the Court accepted the FCC’s limited explanation as sufficient justification for its decision.

As a result of this decision, many scholars are left questioning: how much deference should administrative agencies receive in interpreting a Congressional statute? In Chevron, the Supreme Court required that an agency must give a reasonable explanation to justify its action but, after the DC Circuit decision, many question whether agencies should be held to a higher standard. As a result of the Court’s reclassification choices in US Telecom v. FCC, the FCC has extended its reach in regulating the telecommunications industry; and the impact of the D.C. Circuit’s decision will continue to affect all telecommunications operations, including privacy and wireless issues.

When the D.C. Circuit upheld the 2015 Open Internet Order, it was known that there would be significant restructuring of the privacy rules that govern ISPs. Before the FCC reclassified ISPs as common carriers, the sensitivity of data used and shared on the Internet by ISPs was subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s flexible regulation regime. The FTC’s rules did not apply only to ISPs – but to every player on the Internet, including edge providers, such as Google and Facebook. Since assuming sole authority over ISPs, the FCC has released a set of proposed privacy rules to provide clarity to an ecosystem it considers chaotic. Critics of the rules, however, assert that only confusion will arise from the FCC’s onerous proposals. While the FCC could have proposed rules to mirror the FTC’s longstanding regime, which has, according to many leading industry players, worked effectively, the FCC proposed a code of unprecedented heft, which could severely curtail the marketing practices of many major ISPs. While the rules have not yet been adopted – and while it is far too early to tell how they will affect the business practice of ISPs – they have already been tied to the recent merger of Verizon and Yahoo, which many observers interpret as a sign of things to come as ISPs expand their data marketing operation.

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The BDS Facts Speak for Themselves

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 9, 2016 at 2:53 pm

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

As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”  The FCC has spent the last year analyzing the data submitted in the Business Data Services proceeding to understand what is driving the BDS marketplace.  It has committed to a “data-driven” rulemaking process in its analysis of whether additional BDS regulation is needed.  The jury is still out as to whether that will take place.

As we explain in today’s reply comments, the facts show that competition in the BDS market is thriving. Even as of 2013, competitors had deployed competing facilities in more than 95% of MSA census blocks with BDS demand, and those blocks contain 97% of all BDS connections and 99% of business establishments.  And, according to the NPRM, ILECs’ in-region market share was already under 50%.  Undoubtedly, competition is now even more pervasive, particularly given that cable companies are now prioritizing the BDS marketplace to grow their revenues in the face of more intense competition for their core video offerings.

CLECs predictably attempt to downplay this competition, mostly by twisting the data to focus on areas where there is no BDS demand and by dismissing years of Commission and Department of Justice precedent under which it was recognized that the presence of sunk facilities constrain BDS prices. But the economist retained by the Commission found, based on his analysis of the facts, that “fiber-based competitive supply within at least half a mile generally has a material effect on prices of BDS.”  And the data show that nearly all buildings with ILEC BDS connections are well within a half mile of competitive fiber.  In fact, three quarters of them are within just 456 feet of competitive fiber and about half of all ILEC BDS buildings are merely 88 feet from competitive fiber.

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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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