Last week, I spoke at the National Archives to mark the completion of a unique project to preserve the most important records of President John F. Kennedy in a digital format. This project will enable scholars, students, and ordinary Americans to access the most fascinating documents and records of a presidency which had profound impact on who we are as a Nation. AT&T was honored to provide both dollars and technical capabilities to help bring to life what is now the largest online digitized Presidential archive. But this is one of those rare and special events where a corporate honor was also a very personal and emotional experience.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge history buff. I’ve been known to spend many an hour combing through used book stores, feeling irrational joy when I find some out-of-print work. And I’d have to admit that eyes often (ok, usually) roll in meetings when I can’t resist some obscure historical analogy. Even in my White House days, the advance staff would usually ask someone to keep an eye on me during Presidential trips because I was known for wandering off down the halls of palaces or plazas, distracted by anything that looked really old. I’ve also, maybe perversely, taken my senior team on a field trip to Gettysburg, not for the military study but instead for the leadership lessons one can find there. Sure, history is escapism of a sort. But it’s escapism with life lessons if we understand and apply them.
For those six tech policy folks who were not able to trek to the Consumer Electronics Show in the desert last week, we have compiled some video clips for you. And, no, we did not include any footage of our activity at the tables! These are some highlights from the net neutrality panel last Thursday.
We’ll start with what everyone wants to know… moderator Cecilia Kang of The Washington Post asking Verizon’s Tom Tauke whether it will appeal the FCC’s Order. The clip also includes Tauke musing on the openness rules applied to its 700 MHz spectrum.
For far too long, the question of net neutrality has hamstrung the FCC and prevented needed action on far more urgent, and real, problems. Today’s vote, we trust, will put this issue behind us with a compromise that appears to balance major differences despite a number of lingering concerns.
We appreciate the views expressed publicly by Commissioners McDowell and Baker. Theirs is, we feel, a position supported by the factual record in front of the Commission, and by law. It would also be our preference, especially given the utter absence of any evidence that abuses are occurring in the Internet market, let alone any of the gravity to justify government intervention.
At the same time, we recognize the determination of the Chairman to move forward with a rulemaking. In this circumstance, which is not ideal, our overarching concern is to bring market certainty so that investment and job creation can go forward, while ensuring that we can still meet the expectations of our customers. Though a final view must await a careful reading of the FCC’s order, we believe the Chairman’s compromise can provide this certainty while taking steps to preserve flexibility for investment and innovation.
Since November 30th, Level 3 has made five filings in the FCC’s Open Internet Proceeding in which it raised “net neutrality” concerns about the agreement it had previously reached to purchase connectivity from Comcast. Yesterday, Level 3’s CEO sent another letter to the FCC and the Department of Justice in which he urged the FCC to consider regulating broadband Internet access providers generally to deal with its concerns. The fact that Level 3 did not file its latest letter in the Open Internet docket (such a filing would be prohibited under the FCC’s sunshine rules) may indicate that Level 3 has abandoned its frivolous net neutrality claims.
In any case, this is a pretty remarkable call for regulation of Internet interconnection arrangements that have worked remarkably well without regulation. To try to justify this unprecedented regulatory intervention, Level 3 says that, absent regulation, ISPs can “coerce payments from broadband backbone and independent content providers” thanks to their “dominant control over access to their subscriber’s eyes and ears.”
Wait a minute. Up until now, last-mile ISPs have mostly been buyers rather than sellers of Internet interconnection services. If you ask me, there’s not much crazier in business than buying something that you could, according to Level 3, be selling. Apparently, ISPs have run up billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses that, in fact, could have been revenue. I understand how the buy/build dilemma works, but buy/sell seems like a no-brainer.
By Ellen Blackler, AT&T Executive Director – Public Policy
I hope I’m not jinxing it by mentioning it, but there is a quiet and promising consensus emerging. And, no, I’m not referring to the long-running debate surrounding the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding…We won’t know how that story goes until next Tuesday.
What I’m referring to is the consensus around, of all things, the best way to regulate privacy on the internet. There were a few glimmers of it in the FTC’s dialogue on online privacy leading up to its report released earlier this month. It picked up some speed during the comment period for the NTIA’s Green Paper and really takes off today with that paper’s release. I’ll save you the time of reading the nearly 80-page report by bottom-lining it for you. NTIA puts great emphasis on a new kind of code of conduct, developed with input from consumers, industry and government stakeholders, and robustly enforced with government oversight.