I had the pleasure yesterday of engaging in the blogosphere’s version of a friendly local pub discussion over pints with the estimable Harold Feld of Public Knowledge. As is often the case when I read Harold, I learned a few things, the most interesting of which is that we appear to agree on an important point – that reclassification, in the sense of going back to rules that applied to phone companies’ broadband services prior to 2005, would not give the FCC any greater authority to regulate the services ISPs provide their customers than it has today.
In other words, Harold and I agree that with such a reclassification, ISP services would remain information services subject to Title I. Facilities-based ISPs would have a separate obligation to offer the underlying transport components of the their service on a common carrier basis under Title II, but that would not entail any additional FCC authority over their ISP services.
I also learned – and I have to say that I was surprised to learn — that Harold would be perfectly comfortable under such a regime with allowing ISPs to block, degrade, or filter the Internet to their heart’s content (…of course, we’d never do anything like that). Harold’s theory appears to be that as long as the underlying transport is available on a common carrier basis, a thousand ISPs, I mean flowers, will bloom and consumers can freely decide which version of the Internet they want. Harold appears to base this theory on the proliferation of ISPs in the dial-up world. Personally, I think reciprocal compensation (a.k.a., the ‘90s version of traffic pumping) probably had more to do with the emergence of all those ISPs than the Computer Inquiry rules. But that’s a debate for another day.
Authored By Jim Bugel, AT&T Assistant Vice President, Public Safety and Homeland Security
On Tuesday, I spent the morning at the Federal Communications Commission, participating in the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau’s workshop on critical infrastructure. It was the second formal discussion on public safety issues the Bureau has organized since the FCC delivered its National Broadband Plan to Congress last month.
Maintaining a secure and reliable network is a top priority for AT&T so I appreciated the opportunity to emphasize the importance of network management tools to combat cybercrime. It is imperative that we have the flexibility to be smarter and faster than our adversaries online to protect our customers. I actually blogged in more detail about this right after the plan was released.
I’d like to highlight some other key issues concerning public safety that the Commission should be commended for making such a critical part of our country’s broadband agenda.
I was particularly pleased to see the Commission back a recommendation (page 320) that would make it easier for the timely release of federal assistance during a disaster to maintain or restore public safety communications. This recommendation is in line with one made a couple years back with which I’m very familiar.
The D.C. Circuit’s decision to vacate the FCC’s Comcast-BitTorrent order has a lot of people chattering, including a University of Michigan Law School professor, about how the FCC should “reclassify” broadband as a “Title II” service. The belief is that such a move is necessary to either (a) extract the FCC from an “existential crisis,” or (b) free the FCC’s National Broadband Plan from “legal limbo.” The FCC’s top lawyer has fueled the chatter with a blog post, questioning its authority on a variety of issues, in light of the court decision.
I’m not going to bore you with our view of why classifying broadband as Title II is a mistake. Instead, I’m going to bore you with a brief history of broadband classifications and the mythology that has sprung up around them.
Some believe, incorrectly, that broadband Internet access used to live under the watchful eye of a wise and beneficent FCC. In this latter-day Eden, the FCC regulated broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II. But then the FCC was tempted into taking a bite out of the Title I apple, and pretty soon they had eaten the whole thing.
Leading the effort is SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” which is working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to grow one million small businesses through the use of advanced services.
This morning, at an event in Washington, D.C., I joined FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, SBA Administrator Karen Mills, SCORE CEO Ken Yancy and other technology companies to kick off the SCORE Public/Private Broadband Consortium. With the help of donations from its founding partners, like us, the consortium’s focus will be to increase e-commerce capabilities for small businesses through improved training, digital literacy, and online tools. For AT&T, this is part of our continuing effort to provide small business owners with cutting-edge services and the tools and support they need to be successful.
Today, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion on the Comcast v. FCC case. The following statement may be attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs:
“AT&T made a commitment to abide by the FCC’s Open Internet Principles when they were first formulated in 2005, and we will continue to do so. Those facts have not been changed by today’s action by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. AT&T supports an open Internet. That is what our customers count on us to deliver, and we will not disappoint them.
Moreover, the FCC’s Open Internet Principles work. In the nearly five years since these Principles were put in place, the FCC has encountered only one serious complaint, and even in that case, which was before the court today, the company took steps to address the complaint long before the FCC ruled.