Business Data Services:
New Name, Same Old Problem

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 27, 2016 at 1:00 pm

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

Tomorrow, the FCC will release a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the aim of resetting the conversation on “business data services” (BDS), the Commission’s new name for the decade-old proceeding on special access services. Despite the new moniker, we fear that this proceeding will just be more of the same – a proposal to increase regulation on services provided by those actually investing in fiber (incumbent providers (ILECs) and cable companies) to benefit a handful of companies that want to continue avoiding investing in fiber infrastructure themselves.  We agree with Chairman Wheeler that “competition is a facilities-based issue.”  And that’s why the Commission should instead be asking what it can do to incent more fiber build-out and facilities-based competition throughout the country.

The FCC initiated this proceeding in 2005 to determine whether the regulatory regime for special access services that it set up in 1999 (called “Price Flex”) was working.  The Price Flex regime gave ILECs flexibility to contract and set rates for special access services (oops, I mean business data services) where they could show that facilities-based competitors were present in a market.  Competitive providers (CLECs) have faulted this regime over the years, arguing it deregulated ILEC services in areas without adequate competition.  In response, the FCC began the process of collecting detailed location and pricing information on BDS to examine the actual state of competition.

Despite the CLECs’ best efforts, economists have reviewed these data, and their findings may surprise those who believed the Price Flex relief deregulated in areas without facilities-based competition.  In fact, the opposite is true! The data show that sunk competitive facilities are present in more than 95% of all MSA census blocks where businesses purchase BDS. These census blocks account for about 97% of all the locations that use BDS.  And 99% of all businesses are located in these areas.  This review shows that the Price Flex relief was actually under-inclusive. The data confirm that there are sunk competitive facilities in areas that were granted regulatory relief and, in fact, that there are lots of other areas that were not deregulated where competitive facilities are also present.

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The FCC’s Misguided Quest

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on April 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

In comments filed on Friday in the FCC’s set-top box proceeding, we observe that, like an old general fighting the last war, this Commission seems to be making its stand for a technology that is rapidly being supplanted. As Tim Cook has said, and as almost everyone knows, the future of TV is apps. But the FCC is proposing to re-engineer MVPD networks and video business models in a misguided quest to keep the world safe for set-top boxes.

To justify its hyper-regulatory proposal, the FCC alleges that consumers are “locked into” set-top boxes, and do not have choices in how to navigate MVPD services. In fact, MVPDs are rapidly moving to make their content available on as many devices as possible through the use of applications. This trend is exhibiting the “hockey stick” kind of growth that often characterizes technology adoption. Yet, for some reason, this consumer driven move away from special purpose devices to smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles and streaming devices is insufficient for the FCC.

Instead of jumping on the app bandwagon, the FCC proposes to require MVPDs artificially to split their service into separate information streams. Such a division would give third parties, like Google and Tivo, access to customer viewing data that MVPDs are otherwise required to protect from disclosure. It would also allow those third parties to brand the service as their own, re-design channel line-ups and service guides, and place their own advertisements on top, underneath, or around the ads that programmers might otherwise expect to accompany their content. All without the consent of the MVPD or the rights holders.

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AT&T Response to White House
Action on FCC’s Set-Top Box Proposal

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

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

“Independent regulatory agencies, by law, are supposed to make their decisions based on facts in the public record and not based on politics or pressure from the White House. Unfortunately, just as it did in the Title II proceeding, the White House is intervening in order to direct an outcome that favors one company viewed by many as its political ally.  In fact, it is already claiming political credit for the outcome it has directed.  This is troubling on so many levels, and is a blatant subordination of policy to politics.

“This action not only damages the only companies seriously investing to build broadband infrastructure for this country, it also does great harm to the confidence we should be able to have in the impartiality of the FCC’s proceedings.  It seems clear this intervention is aimed at muscling Democratic commissioners to support the Google proposal;  to do otherwise they would not only have to defy the FCC Chairman but now also the President.  This situation is not even remotely fair to the many legitimate factual concerns that have been raised about the Google proposal and its potential harm to consumers, to broadband investment in the United States, to copyright protection, and to the very existence of independent and minority-owned content.

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A Step toward an Effective
Spectrum Sharing Framework

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 14, 2016 at 10:27 am

By Stacey Black, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory

There has been a lot of talk lately about spectrum sharing – Spectrum Access Systems, Dynamic Spectrum Arbitrage, Environmental Sensing Capability, Shared Spectrum Access for Radar and Communications, to name just a few of the discussed approaches. The purveyors of these techniques believe that their technology will change the way spectrum is shared and will solve the nation’s unquenchable thirst for this finite resource.  We have some reluctance about these high-tech approaches because they largely remain unproven.  We’ve certainly never seen any one of them working in a commercially deployed wireless network serving 100 million plus customers; and we don’t think we will for some time.

But we have been thinking a lot about spectrum sharing, particularly in light of the FCC proceeding that proposes that satellite operations share spectrum with terrestrial mobile broadband services to advance 5th generation networks.  In support of that proceeding, we recently collaborated with EchoStar – a premier broadband satellite company – on developing a sharing framework that will enable both satellite and mobile services to make intensive and productive use of valuable high GHz 5G spectrum resources in a manner that does not unduly restrict the development of either service. How? Not with some new-fangled technology with an acronym. We talked with each other to understand interference concerns and to develop a coordination framework that would work for both types of services.

In our discussions with EchoStar, we found that we not only shared common business goals and interests, but that our network architectures were a lot more compatible than once believed. For example, satellite earth stations point into the sky with highly directional antennas and mobile broadband base stations typically point their antennas towards the ground.  We also learned that it is not necessary for earth stations to be in densely populated urban centers, where mobile broadband is used the most. With these and other data points, we outlined a reasonable set of coordination guidelines and parameters that would allow us to deploy mobile networks and new earth stations in more places than previously thought.

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TOPICS: Broadband, FCC, Spectrum
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AT&T Statement on Special
Access and Broadband Investment

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 12, 2016 at 11:14 am

The following may be attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President-External and Legislative Affairs, and is in response to remarks made yesterday by FCC Chairman Wheeler:

“We agree that incremental investment in broadband facilities for 5G and in rural areas is essential.  But imposing regulation on special access prices and contract terms is not going to produce it.  In fact, the entire notion that more layers of FCC regulation will yield more broadband investment is absurd on its face, and proves that this FCC remains ‘an economics-free zone.’  The Commission’s proposals will instead lead to far less investment in broadband infrastructure – especially in rural areas – the very opposite of where we should be going as a nation.”

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