Lifeline is Headed in the
Right Direction (We Hope)

Posted by: Jim Cicconi on March 14, 2016 at 2:18 pm

The effort to modernize the troubled Lifeline program appears to be moving in the right direction.  AT&T has long supported the need to fix the program’s glaring administrative problems while allowing Lifeline eligible consumers to use their $9.25 discount on Internet access services. Last week, the FCC’s fact sheet outlined plans for a National Eligibility Verifier that should take eligibility decisions out of service providers’ hands, which truly has the potential to be a transformative change if properly implemented.  It could close the door on provider-initiated eligibility fraud and help re-focus the program on the consumers it was intended to serve.

What’s not clear in the fact sheet, however, is how long it will take before providers can stop performing all of these functions and whether the National Eligibility Verifier will take over any of the other administrative functions that providers are currently required to perform.  Our fingers will remain crossed until we see all the details, and we may not uncross until we get further down the road to implementation. But Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn should be commended for championing this approach.

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TOPICS: Consumers, FCC, Lifeline
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Privacy Regulation:
Symmetry or Asymmetry?

Posted by: Bob Quinn on March 9, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Last week, the five associations representing virtually all wireline and (non-WISP) mobile ISPs submitted a joint proposal to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on how to address the implications of applying Section 222 to broadband Internet access in the wake of the FCC’s ill-advised 2015 Title II Order.  As the filing explains, ISPs do not currently live in a “regulatory-free zone” when it comes to privacy, nor are we asking to live in one in the future.  Prior to the FCC’s Order, wireline and mobile ISPs provided service in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) privacy regime (which prohibits deceptive and unfair trade practices).  That regime also governed – and will continue to govern – the privacy practices of search providers, OS providers, browsers, apps, email providers and other tech companies who operate in the Internet ecosystem whether they collect and use customer data to provide services or to monetize that customer data  through advertising.

Under that regime, all major ISPs have enacted privacy policies which explain to consumers the information that ISPs collect and how that data is used.  At AT&T, we’ve continued to simplify our policy, including several years ago when we went to a single comprehensive privacy policy that describes plainly and simply the information we collect, how we collect it and how we use it.  I served several years as AT&T’s Chief Privacy Officer (until I was succeeded by Lori Fink, our current Chief Privacy Officer, last July) and can tell you first hand that we take customer privacy and how we communicate our polices to our customers seriously.

The FTC privacy regime presented a uniform approach to privacy that focused on customer transparency, disclosure and customer choice.  In fact, after the EU courts vacated the safe harbor provisions that had been in place governing data transfers between the U.S. and Europe, the U.S. Government went to great lengths to highlight to their EU counterparts that privacy enforcement by the FTC was equal to or stronger than privacy enforcement in Europe.  As privacy oversight for ISPs transfers from the FTC to the FCC as a direct result of the Title II Order, AT&T has and will continue to advocate for a framework that is based on the FTC approach.

Some groups, however, have argued that in fact the FCC needs to go much further than the current FTC framework in its treatment of ISPs. To get there, those groups have characterized ISPs as “gatekeepers,” asserted that ISPs (as opposed to companies like Google) are the real leaders of targeted advertising and, finally, argued that the Federal Trade Commission is, in essence, incompetent at policing privacy given the tools they have available.  With all due respect to those groups, their arguments are just not borne out by the facts. 

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Univision Agrees to Temporarily Unblock Channels

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 8, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Attribute the following to an AT&T spokesperson:

“We appreciate Univision agreeing to our request earlier today to unblock their channels temporarily during the upcoming Democratic Presidential Debate. This is the right thing to do for our Spanish-language customers as we continue working toward an agreement with Univision.”

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TOPICS: Other Thoughts
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AT&T Statement on Univision and Our Strong Record on Diversity and Inclusion

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 7, 2016 at 6:27 pm

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

“We appreciate the statement from Univision’s Ms. Herrera-Flanigan and her recognition of AT&T’s strong record on diversity and inclusion. One point requires clarification, though. U-verse customers did not simply ‘lose access to the family of Univision networks.’ That access was pulled by Univision, despite our offer to extend the carriage agreement temporarily while a new long-term agreement was being worked out.

“AT&T remains committed to Spanish language channels, and we currently carry 78 of them.  We have been and continue to be committed to paying fair, market rates for content so U-verse customers are protected from big increases in their bills.  We continue to hope for a resolution of this matter consistent with those principles.”

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TOPICS: Cable, Consumers
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AT&T Statement on Univision
Blocking U-verse Customers

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 6, 2016 at 11:41 am

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

“It’s unfortunate the owners of Univision not only have blocked U-verse customers from seeing their channels, but also have stooped to despicable allegations in an effort to extort an outrageous price increase – an increase which ultimately will come at the expense of all our customers, including Univision viewers. Spanish-language channels are important to us and our customers. AT&T’s focus is to offer a wide range of content for our Hispanic viewers, while keeping cost increases, and bills, down as much as possible.  If Univision really cares about their audiences, they will immediately restore their channels to U-Verse homes while we figure this out. Go to att.com/FightingForYou to learn more.”

 

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TOPICS: Cable, Consumers
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