The FCC stepped up to the plate today to remove barriers to broadband infrastructure investment and lower the costs of broadband deployment, a key recommendation of the Commission’s National Broadband Plan. It was a good day at the dish, but it looks as if this game is headed to extra-innings.
As many of you know, the Commission’s pole attachment Order, adopted today, confirmed its authority to oversee all pole attachment rates, but it failed to set a benchmark rate for traditional phone companies, such as AT&T. What this means, at least for the near term, is that traditional phone companies will continue to pay rates that are multiple times higher than their broadband competitors – cable companies and CLECs.
So, you can say that the Commission took a step in the right direction, and they should be applauded for that. But this game is far from over.
By Jeanine Poltronieri, AT&T Assistant Vice President-Federal Regulatory
Imagine you are on a beach somewhere in Florida, relaxing and, perhaps, sipping a margarita. Naturally, you want to call your friends back in D.C. to gloat. But your cell call drops. Why? A luxury yacht named New Frontier just entered the port. How does that work, you ask? Well, this luxury yacht has been using a signal booster to get a stronger cell signal when out at sea. Unfortunately, these boosters can cause massive interference to commercial and public safety cell systems, so that while New Frontier’s signal gets through, other users experience dropped calls or degraded service.
This isn’t just a hypothetical situation. It actually happened back in November 2007 when the signal booster New Frontier was using caused severe harmful interference to six AT&T towers in Florida for 21 hours. It led to 2,795 dropped calls and 81,000 blocked or impaired calls. Troubling, huh? We thought so.
But boosters are not limited to use on boats. They are sold for residential use, office use, and use in cars and motor homes. In response to a Public Notice on the topic the FCC issued in January 2010, the Commission has received reams of documentation about the harm that boosters cause to consumer and public safety communications, including blocking E911 calls and interfering with the accuracy of E911 location information. The FCC has been aware of this problem for years thanks to a white paper CTIA released in 2006. And we filed a complaint at the FCC against a particular booster manufacturer in April 2009. That complaint is still pending.
Yesterday, AT&T’s Jim Cicconi talked about federal spectrum policies while on a panel at the Brookings Institution here in Washington, D.C. Although there was a question or two (ok, maybe a few more) about our recent announcement, panelists spent a good amount of time discussing the need for incentive auctions.
If you’re a regular visitor to our blog, you know that we’ve been talking for a while now about the critical need for sensible spectrum reform, and how broadcasters should become a part of the solution.
In case you weren’t able to attend yesterday’s event, below is a clip of Jim on why it doesn’t make economic sense to allow broadcasters to continue to sit on such valuable spectrum (which they got for free, btw). He also asks, if broadcasters really need all this spectrum for over-the-air broadcasting, why do they also need must carry – government rules that require competing video providers to carry broadcasters’ signals?
Oh, and be sure to stick around after listening to Jim. Blair Levin has some interesting remarks on this subject as well…
So, we’ve made some news this weekend. In case you missed it, we announced on Sunday we have agreed to acquire T-Mobile USA from German-owned Deutsche Telekom.
The deal will undergo a thorough review by the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission. We understand that Congress, the DOJ, the FCC, as well as wireless consumers will have questions about the transaction. We look forward to answering and addressing those questions.
We are confident that the facts will demonstrate that the deal is in the public interest (FCC focus) and that competition (DOJ focus) will continue to flourish. For example, a large majority of Americans today can choose from at least five wireless providers offering nationwide service. Also, the transaction will allow us to expand the next generation of mobile broadband to 95% of the U.S. population – up from 80% as previously planned – covering an additional 46.5 million Americans, a key objective of the Administration.
For further information on the transaction, and to stay informed of the latest news and information as the process moves forward, please visit www.MobilizeEverything.com.
On Wednesday, Chairman Genachowski outlined his goals for spectrum reform to deliver on the promise and potential of this country’s mobile broadband future. In response, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) issued two separate statements promising (again) that broadcasters will work with policymakers to address our country’s spectrum challenges, but then demonstrating that NAB is not yet interested in real cooperation.
First, NAB attempted to sell the notion that their 1950’s-era broadcast transmission model is somehow a superior technology – as if nothing better has happened technologically in the last 50 years. Then, they seem to argue that consumers really prefer their model, despite overwhelming evidence that U.S. consumers are embracing, indeed demanding, the “any content, anywhere” promise of mobile broadband. Any American even remotely aware of what’s going on knows this. Simply put, consumers no longer want the old, centrally-controlled content delivery model the broadcasters offer. Only 10% of households now depend on over-the-air television, and that number is dropping like a stone.
As if striving for a trifecta of incongruity, NAB then insinuated the problem isn’t their own massive warehousing and underuse of precious spectrum resources. Instead, the problem is everyone else. It’s not their 1950’s transmission method that’s inefficient; the fault is with modern devices that receive their signals. And somehow those companies making the largest capital investments in the U.S., and perhaps the largest private capital investments in American history, aren’t investing fast enough to suit the broadcasters.