Commission (Almost) Bites Dog: Or the (not so) Hidden Meaning of the FCC’s Broadband Report

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on July 30, 2010 at 10:25 am

When I first heard that the FCC’s 6th 706 report would find, for the first time, that broadband in the U.S. was not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner, I wondered, half in jest, whether the FCC would single itself out for blame as the culprit responsible for this unfortunate situation. To my amazement, the FCC came fairly close to doing just that.

Paragraph 28 of the report tells the tale – somewhere between 14 million and 24 million Americans lack access to broadband (defined in the report as a minimum of 4 Mbps/1 Mbps); these folks are disproportionately lower-income Americans and residents of rural areas; and, finally, private investment is not going to solve this problem because (citing the National Broadband Plan) there is no business case to offer broadband service in these areas. The report went on to say that “market forces alone are unlikely to ensure that the unserved minority of Americans will be able to obtain the benefits of broadband anytime in the near future.”

What is the significance of this?  Well, in conceding that no reasonable business plan would deliver broadband on a timely basis to these areas, the FCC has basically admitted that this report’s finding reflects a failure of public policy and not, as some have erroneously claimed,  a defect in competitive conditions in the broadband marketplace.

So, where can this public policy failure be found? Mostly in the failed universal service programs described in my recent blog series on USF. Section 254 of the Telecom Act directs the FCC (and state regulators) to base universal service policies on a series of principles, including that “consumers in all regions of the Nation, including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high cost areas, should have access to telecommunications and information services, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services, that are reasonably comparable to those services provided in urban areas.”

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AT&T Statement on Next Generation Public Safety Device Act of 2010

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Background – Congresswoman Jane Harman has introduced the ‘‘Next Generation Public Safety Device Act of 2010,’’ legislation that directs NTIA to conduct competitions and award grants for the development of next generation public safety devices. The following statement may be attributed to AT&T Executive Vice President-Federal Relations Tim McKone:

“We applaud Congresswoman Harman for introducing legislation that provides a solid foundation for funding the development of next generation devices for public safety. Importantly, the legislation gives priority to projects that are interoperable with other commercial bands, which will give first responders the comfort in knowing that vital communications will work in emergencies.

“Also, AT&T believes that backward compatibility with 3G and 2G commercial networks should be a minimum requirement for public safety devices as it enhances interoperability for the men and women of the public safety community.”

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The U.S. Wireless Industry – It’s All About the Consumer

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm

By Mike Bennett, AT&T Executive Director-Consumer & Government Affairs

Did you know that during the last half of 2009, the wireless industry handled the equivalent of the entire catalog of books in the Library of Congress every single hour of every single day?  And that amount of traffic is projected to double each year through 2014.  Impressive, huh?   How about the fact that, in addition to this incredible data growth, the industry handled over 2 trillion voice minutes, over 1.5 trillion text messages, and 35 billion picture/video messages?

It’s pretty incredible when you think about all the benefits the U.S. wireless market brings to consumers, and the country, every day.  It is a true American success story.  Since it was released May 20, we’ve been addressing various aspects of the Commission’s 14th Annual Wireless Competition Report, which failed to celebrate this success by not concluding that there is effective competition in the wireless marketplace.  This was both baffling and troubling.   The wireless industry may well be the most competitive industry in America, and we have shown that it is certainly the most competitive wireless market in the world.

All that we have highlighted in this series of blogs – from investment to price competition to non-price competition – accrues to the benefit of the consumer.   The industry has rolled out numerous consumer-friendly practices in the past several years, including the elimination of roaming and long distance charges as well as the introduction of unlimited calling plans.  Customer disclosure material at the point of sale has been substantially improved and detailed street level coverage map tools are now widely available. The return period for service and equipment has increased, as have customer self-service capabilities.  Consumers can also easily set limits on their usage, and carriers now provide courtesy usage alerts to help customers manage monthly bills.  

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Empowering the Consumer

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on July 28, 2010 at 6:34 pm

By Celia Nogales, Assistant Vice President of Regulatory

Today, CTIA – The Wireless Association, released an updated version of the “Consumer Code for Wireless Service.”  Developed seven years ago, the Code is designed to ensure consumers have the information they need in choosing and managing wireless services.  With the rapidly changing marketplace, consumers can choose from a wide, and ever expanding, variety of exciting mobile technologies and services.

AT&T has been a proud supporter of the Code since its inception and we are pleased to join CTIA and our fellow industry members in today’s effort.  The 2010 updates to the Code include critical changes that reflect the growing marketplace and address issues such as data usage and network management practices. 

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TOPICS: Wireless
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The USF Beat – Part 2: The Mississippi and Alabama Situation

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on July 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm

My previous blog post examined how a wireless provider like AT&T mobility ended up getting money from the Federal Universal Service Fund (USF), and why AT&T continues to receive money from a fund which it has been urging the FCC to reform for years. In this blog, I take a closer look at the USF funding that AT&T receives for its wireline operations in rural and high cost areas.

As I mentioned last time, AT&T’s USF receipts are split about 50/50 between its mobility business and its traditional wireline local phone business.  And, on the wireline side, well over half of the money AT&T receives is for just two of the twenty-two states where AT&T provides traditional wireline phone service – Mississippi and Alabama. (You can get all the gory details here.)

If that seems odd to you, be assured that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the good company of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which has twice told the FCC to fix the program that creates this situation. The FCC in turn has made no changes to this program, but has most recently told the court that the program is in fact serving the policies set out by Congress, and, by the way, the FCC plans to phase the program out entirely as it transitions universal service support to broadband.

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