Dewey Defeats Truman

Posted by: Joan Marsh on May 20, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Occasionally, a conclusion is reached that is so unhinged from the facts that it defies explanation.  So it is with the 14th Edition of the Mobile Wireless Competition Report released today by the FCC.

Actually, it was not a conclusion in this case that baffles, but the lack of one.  After reviewing an extensive record that demonstrates robust and even cut-throat competition in almost every facet of the US wireless industry, the FCC decided that it would not, as it has in the past, draw any conclusion about whether the U.S. wireless industry was effectively competitive.

Why should things have changed so suddenly?

It’s not the industry.  On almost every measurable indicator, the U.S. leads the world in wireless investment, deployment, penetration and innovation.  What is driving the investment and innovation?  Robust competition in the U.S. wireless market.  And despite uncertain economic times, carriers continue to invest billions of dollars in upgrading their networks – more than $20 billion in both 2008 and 2009.

It’s not a lack of choice.  The U.S. continues to have four national carriers – a level of competition most European countries envy – three large regional providers, and dozens of smaller providers.  Most U.S. consumers continue to have at least five different providers from which to choose.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that the U.S. wireless market is the least concentrated among 26 industrialized nations. 

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A Teachable Moment

Posted by: Michael Balmoris on May 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm

We hope everyone enjoyed our little contest and took it in the spirit it was offered – a playful reminder that the internet is more than an app or service or bits of content.  After years of debate over and discussion of the issue of “net neutrality,” we would hope that all sides recognize that it takes a village of app, service, content and network providers to keep the internet humming along.  Here at AT&T we are working and investing and innovating to provide seamless connectivity so that our customers can access whatever legal content, app or service they want, when and where they want it.

Ok, now onto the good stuff.  First, we want to give a shout out to all those who took the time to enter the contest. Following are five entries, which were in the running for best embracing the essence of our contest, and are deserving of honorable mentions: 

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Fantasy Baseball Prediction League

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on May 18, 2010 at 11:45 am

Harold Feld has an interesting response to Bob Quinn’s recent Pickett’s Charge blog post. While Harold makes a number of points, I want to focus on one in particular. Under the heading of “Argument #2,” he raises questions about what other services might be pulled into the kind of classification analysis that his Fantasy Baseball version of the FCC is engaged in.

For purposes of fantasy competition only, let’s assume that Harold is right and just “Because all Information Services are Delivered Via Telecommunications, Classifying Broadband Access as a Telecommunications Service Would [Not] Require Classifying Facebook and Akamai as Telecommunications Services.” Perhaps Harold is right that the FCC’s channeling of Justice Scalia will not result in reclassification of all information services as mixed information and telecommunications services. Under Scalia’s reasoning, there might be services where the “telecommunications component” does not seem like a separately identifiable part of the offer (to a discerning regulator).

At the same time, the FCC probably cannot fire a magic bullet that affects the classification only of Internet access services. There are three kinds of services that I’m particularly interested in here. The first is the category that we at AT&T think of as “emerging devices.” Things like e-readers, navigation devices, wireless picture frames (the list could go on and on). Users of these services and devices do not purchase wireless data services from traditional wireless providers. Instead, their service provider bundles end-to-end wholesale data transport services (including the user’s “last mile”) with their own server infrastructure to provide each particular service.

Under the FCC’s prior understanding, where information and telecommunications services were mutually exclusive categories, most people would have assumed that such services fell in the information bucket. Now we will all have to consider whether they contain distinct information telecommunications components. Do consumers view these services as including a “transmission component?” Should such services expect to be collateral damage under the proposed approach?

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They Do What? Where?

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on May 17, 2010 at 9:48 am

Authored by Andrea Brands, Director of Public Affairs for AT&T

Andrea BrandsRecently I talked to students who took part in the national Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day about online safety and mentioned how many of their grandparents were likely online, perhaps emailing with friends, researching second careers or even looking for love through an online dating site.

They giggled, “Noooo way! They’re dating? They’re on Facebook?” The look on their faces quickly went from amusement to disappointment: now EVERYONE is getting in on the act. Is nothing sacred?

I shouldn’t have been surprised at their response. When thinking of online safety, most adults probably think only of children and how to teach them responsible use of the Internet. While kids are a significant demographic on the Internet, especially mobile broadband, more and more seniors are turning to the Internet for professional, social and life-empowering tools – and online safety is just as important for them. Statistics show that broadband usage for seniors ages 65 and older has grown from 19 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2009 – an increase of 58 percent in just one year. And as the FCC’s National Broadband Plan seeks to bring broadband capabilities to all Americans, online safety for seniors is more important than ever.

Like their children and grandchildren, this demographic is now communicating with friends and family via email and video chat, researching travel opportunities, paying bills, tracking financial information and even engaging in social media and online dating. But one of the most significant adaptations is older Americans’ use of telemedicine.

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Pickett’s Charge Redux

Posted by: Bob Quinn on May 11, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I’ve had some time to step back a bit from last week’s FCC announcement,  in which the Chairman and General Counsel laid out a plan to go down the path of applying 75 year-old monopoly voice (Title II) regulation to the 21st century broadband Internet.  I have to admit that while some issues have crystallized, others leave me a bit puzzled with the approach outlined by General Counsel Schlick.

For starters, I think analysts and market reaction to the FCC’s decision (as evident by the cable stocks, which have never before lived under the Title II umbrella) confirms our fears from the outset that heavy-handed regulation (however you try to spin it) will inject a great deal of uncertainty into an already jittery marketplace.  So, I am left pondering many questions. Most notably, what does the Commission think it will actually accomplish with this proposal?

I will leave aside the perplexing assertion that the  proposal appears to be based on the dissenting opinion by Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court Brand X case, in which he and two other justices would have reversed the FCC and not applied Chevron deference to its views. If there’s a SNL for telecom geeks, I know there is a funny skit in there somewhere.

Equally interesting were Commission statements that were pretty clear that reclassification of Title II would not apply to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but only to the transmission facility used by the ISP to provide Internet access service.  Allow me an overly wonkish moment: AT&T sells a DSL transport service to competitive ISPs (in fact, we had a merger commitment on this issue in the AT&T/BellSouth merger after EarthLink raised concerns that we might withdraw that service from the market post merger).  The competitive ISP buys that service from us and couples it with its Internet access services and sells the whole package to the consumer as a retail Internet service.

Under the Commission’s “third way” proposal, net neutrality rules will not apply to ISPs like EarthLink or for that matter any other ISPs, including AT&T or cable companies.

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