Virtue Lies in the Middle Ground

Posted by: Joan Marsh on November 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

This week, Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, gave a much anticipated speech before the European Summit on the Open Internet and Net Neutrality.  Taking stock of the debate thus far, Vice President Kroes outlined the important pillars of her policy judgment on net neutrality.

She stressed the importance of avoiding regulation that might deter investment and efficient use of available resources.  She cited the need for investment to avoid bottlenecks and allow for the development of new bandwidth-hungry services and applications.  To deter that investment through unnecessary regulation “would be cutting off our noses to spite our face.”

In addition, Vice President Kroes recognized that effective traffic management is essential – not only to optimize the “best effort” services prevalent on the Internet today, but to allow for the development of the type of specialized services that will enhance the value of the Internet in the 21st century.

She further recognized the power of the marketplace to police provider conduct, encouraging consumers to leave mobile providers who limit their choices. 

Read More

Reinventing the Edsel

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on November 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

Among its many recommendations, the National Broadband Plan recommended that the FCC “encourage transitions to IP-to-IP interconnection where that is the most efficient approach.” Last week, COMPTEL advised the FCC that the way to achieve this objective is to apply the same rules to IP-to-IP interconnection as apply to interconnection on the public telephone network, aka PSTN. Unless the Commission wants to impose on IP networks the various inefficiencies, disputes and arbitrage schemes that plague the PSTN, it should decline this invitation to import the logic of calling party network pays to IP networks.

Did I really just write “calling party network pays” in a blog? Well, yeah, I suppose I did.  So, unless you’re in the mood for some wonkery, now might be a good time to check out what’s going on with the Facebook-Google smackdown or check in on the discussion around whether cable-cutting is mainstream or just for dog food lovers.

But, if you are still with me…and are asking yourself, “Hank, what’s so wrong with imposing PSTN interconnection rules on IP networks?  I mean, after all, it’s just a technology change, right?  Did Major League Baseball get rid of the infield fly rule when lights, artificial turf, or those goofy relief pitcher cars were brought into the game?”

Well, no, but this isn’t “just a technology change.”  It’s about moving to broadband, digital IP networks where voice is a data application – and a relatively low bandwidth one at that.

Read More

Knowledge is Power

Posted by: Joan Marsh on November 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm

At AT&T, we believe control of wireless products and services should be in the hands of our customers.  We believe that customers should understand what fees they will incur when they use their devices.  And we believe we need to provide our customers with the tools they need to understand their usage and manage their monthly bill.

Last month, Chairman Genachowski announced the FCC’s Consumer Empowerment Agenda – a campaign to ensure that all Americans have the tools they need to take advantage of new technologies.  As the Chairman recognized, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a consumer of communications technologies.  But every new gadget and gizmo brings with it new complexities and challenges, and consumers can become confused and overwhelmed.

So today, we’re introducing the new AT&T Smart Controls Website – a one-stop online destination dedicated to providing AT&T customers with safety and control tools and resources.  We can truly say that the inspiration for this easy-to-use site came from our customers.  Their input has resulted in an online location that helps them to use and manage their technology choices in a safe and effective way.

Read More

Price Regulation in the
Buggy Whip Market

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on November 5, 2010 at 11:20 am

Throughout the course of this year’s debate over net neutrality and Title II classification, one thing the FCC consistently disavowed was retail price regulation of broadband. Indeed, price regulation should be the last thing a modern regulator would want to be associated with. It is rightly seen in most respectable regulatory establishments as a throwback to monopoly-era bureaucracy.

That is why the FCC’s continued price regulation of the buggy whip, I mean consumer long distance market, is exceedingly…interesting.  Remember long distance? Well, to give you an idea of how “yesterday” long distance service has become, here are a few TV spots from the days of yore, when you couldn’t get past an episode of Seinfeld without seeing a few ads for long distance service.

And, despite the fact that the retail consumer long distance market has all but disappeared as a market distinct from the overall voice services market, the FCC still regulates the price structure for “long distance” with a heavy hand.

To further explain, I will take a brief detour into the world of intercarrier compensation….Basically, the FCC’s rules prohibit carriers from charging higher prices to the consumer for “long distance” calls, even though in some areas they incur significantly higher access charges from the local phone companies that “originate” or “terminate” those calls. Under both the FCC’s rules and the telecom act, retail long distance prices must be averaged. Indeed, the purpose of this price regulation is to prevent carriers from pricing their services in order to reflect more precisely the cost of doing business.

Read More

The Mobile Broadband Tsunami

Posted by: Joan Marsh on October 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

Although I don’t normally like to advertise for our competitors, I can’t help but draw attention to GigaOm’s recent mobile broadband buying guide, which does a great job of highlighting the robust competition in the mobile broadband space.  The guide seeks to navigate the vast array of choices available to consumers and notes that, with the competing 4G networks now available and more emerging in 2011, a veritable mobile broadband tsunami has arrived.

One of the most interesting aspects of GigaOm’s guide is the role new, niche and smaller carriers play in the ever-changing competitive marketplace.  GigaOm highlights some changes that took place in just the last six months:

Read More