In Silver Blaze, one of the most popular Sherlock Holmes stories, Holmes solves the mystery of the disappearance of a racehorse in part by divining the importance of something that others failed to notice – the silence of a dog. Holmes concluded that this “curious incident” (which was really a non-incident) could only mean that the dog recognized the midnight visitor who took the horse.
Today, I’d like to focus on another curious incident. You may recall that a little over a year ago, AT&T and others brought to the attention of the FCC the fact that Google was blocking certain telephone calls to areas frequented by traffic-pumpers (i.e., companies with a business built on stimulating calling in order to collect terminating switched access charges). I was reminded of this curious incident yesterday when the FCC’s Chairman, Julius Genachowski, took some measure of credit for opening the iPhone to Skype simply by making inquiries.
The FCC made similar inquiries with respect to Google’s call-blocking practices, and Google responded by narrowing the scope of its call-blocking. But it has never stopped blocking calls to traffic-pumpers and the FCC has never again barked about this issue. To make matters worse, I have been told by rural carriers that some other IP-based providers have taken the FCC’s silence as license to block calls more generally to rural areas to which they are unable to complete calls at the rates they prefer.
Kudos to Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld for sharpening his lawyer pencil and addressing some of the legal issues around the (apparently) fascinating issue of “paid prioritization.” In a recent blog post, Harold explained how, under Title II, the FCC might approach various business models that include payment for prioritization.
Harold’s basic point was that the FCC might either permit or prohibit particular instances of “paid prioritization” based at least in part on decisions the FCC has made in the past. I agree completely on this point. Contrary to the title of Harold’s blog, I don’t think anyone at AT&T has said that Title II would “require” the FCC to permit any and all practices that include both payment and prioritization. But, if someone has, then he or she should go back to common carrier school.
What I and others have said is that under Title II the FCC could not a priori (for some reason lawyers like Latin) ban all practices that may combine payment and prioritization, since in the past they have allowed some practices that do so. Under Title II, carriers would be free in the first instance to offer such services and concerned parties would be free to challenge them. At which point, the process Harold describes would kick in and the FCC would have to decide whether the service in question is “unreasonable,” or “unjustly and unreasonably discriminatory,” yadda, yadda, yadda (or blah, blah, blah, as Harold prefers).
By Ellen Blackler, AT&T Executive Director – Public Policy
Many days it seems like the job is about trying to get that “unread email” number down to something less embarrassing. Then there are the other days. Last Thursday was one of the other days. I attended the launch of mWomen: Empowering the Base of the Pyramid through Mobile Technology at the State Department. It was an effort sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund with the goal to halve the gender gap in mobile phone ownership from 300 million to 150 million in three years.
The effort spoke to me not just because I got to see Secretary of State Clinton and Cherie Blair in person, but because it addressed a hard problem – supporting developing economies in a sustainable way by addressing a root cause – the empowerment of women. It’s achievable. It uses technology that exists and is commonly used today. And, it’s simple: Get mobile phones in the hands of women.
In developing economies in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the gender gap in phone ownership is significant. For instance, women in South Asia are 37% less likely to have a phone than men. Mobile phones open up amazing economic, health and educational opportunities. In fact, in GSMA’s study, 41% of the women reported that they had greater income and opportunity from simply owning a mobile phone.
For the past several months, I have represented AT&T on the board of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) – a public- private partnership focused on improving online safety awareness and education for consumers. To kick off Cybersecurity Awareness month, the NCSA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security co-hosted an event this past Monday in Seattle, where White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt unveiled a new national cybersecurity awareness campaign called Stop. Think. Connect.
Stop. Think. Connect. is designed to answer President Obama’s call for the creation of a national public awareness campaign that would achieve for cybersecurity what the “Smokey Bear” campaign did for forest fire prevention. For more than a year, AT&T, along with other members of the industry, government agencies and non-profit organizations have worked closely to develop uniform, simple easy-to-understand actionable messaging that consumers can employ to protect themselves online.
Jim Cicconi discusses his recent trip to Brussels, Belgium, where he participated in a Transatlantic dialogue with European leaders. The discussions focused on important issues and challenges facing Europe and the United States. While in Brussels, Jim delivered the keynote at the Center for European Studies (CES) forum on “The Challenges to the Creation of a Real Transatlantic Market.”