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?
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
Recently 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.
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.
Posted by: Hank Hultquist on May 7, 2010 at 3:04 pm
UPDATE: The contest has ended. To view the winning entry please check here.
In 2006, then Senator Ted Stevens was pilloried for comparing the Internet to “a series of tubes.” Today, a Free Press spokesman has done him one better.
According to Free Press, “the ‘Internet’ is not the wires that deliver the content and applications, but the content itself.” I suppose this would come as a bit of a surprise to the participants in the Internet Engineering Task Force, who seem to be under the misimpression that the Internet consists of interconnected networks running the IP protocol. Perhaps Free Press will petition them to re-name their group the InterNOT Engineering Task Force.
In any case, we here at AT&T are sponsoring a contest in honor of Free Press. We’re looking for the best analogy to capture the spirit of nonsensical abstraction embodied in Free Press’s effort to define networks out of the Internet. For example, one might say “a swimming pool is not the floor and walls of the structure, but simply the water in it.” Or “a cannoli is not the pastry tube, but simply the cream inside.” I think you get the idea.
Posted by: Jim Cicconi on May 6, 2010 at 4:21 pm
We are deeply disappointed that, in order to deal with an adverse court decision, the FCC chairman has decided to subject all broadband facilities, including Internet backbones, to common carriage regulation under Title II. We believe this is without legal basis. Make no mistake—when it regulates the networks that comprise the Internet, the FCC is in fact, and for the first time, regulating the Internet itself. There is no statutory basis for doing so—indeed it is directly contrary to Congress’s stated intentions—and is being done without any compelling evidence that would justify a reversal of the FCC’s prior decisions on this issue. If the FCC follows through with the chairman’s stated intent, it will have a direct impact on jobs and investment in one of the areas of the US economy that many hoped could help lead the recovery.
We do not question the chairman’s good faith or his genuine desire to craft a “third way”. But the fact remains that this approach would subject Internet facilities to some of the most onerous regulatory provisions on the books—provisions drafted in 1934 for a monopoly voice network. To regulate the most modern Internet technology of the 21st century under a model designed for a different era is hard to explain and even harder to justify legally.