DTV Deadline for POTS

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on December 22, 2009 at 9:52 am

Yesterday, we filed comments on the 25th public notice released by the FCC on the national broadband plan. (Not including the original notice of inquiry.)  At this point, we’re all suffering from a bit of comment fatigue, and I’m sure that includes the people at the FCC who are writing the plan. But this particular public notice is a big enough deal that I hope it draws the best ideas out there.

This time the FCC asked about the transition from legacy networks and services to broadband IP networks. While it may seem like this transition is both inevitable and well underway,  there are some significant regulatory barriers to its completion. In particular, legacy universal service and intercarrier compensation policies stand in the way of completing this transition in a timely or efficient manner. In our filing, we propose a firm deadline for the transition from the POTS business model to an IP-based broadband environment, as one of the most significant actions the FCC can take to achieve the goal of ubiquitous, affordable broadband for all Americans:

Due to technological advances, changes in consumer preference, and market forces, the question is when, not if, POTS service and the PSTN over which it is provided will become  obsolete.…the single most important feature of Commission action at this time is the establishment of a firm deadline at which point the transition will be complete, and we advise the Commission to seek comment on when that deadline should be, taking into account Commission experience in managing the transition to digital broadcasting as well as the retirement of analog cellular networks.

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FCC Proposes to Transition the Universal Service Fund

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on December 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

The Washington Post reports today that the FCC has proposed transitioning the Universal Service Fund, which currently supports the phone network, into a 21st-century fund that supports broadband.

We think this is a great idea – in fact, 20 months ago today we filed a proposal at the FCC recommending just such a transition:

In particular, AT&T proposes that the Commission transition those mechanisms to a Broadband Incentive Fund (for fixed networks) and an Advanced Mobility Fund (for mobile wireless networks), which will collectively support the voluntary deployment and offering of broadband service in unserved areas. The plan’s defining characteristics are cost control, accountability, state participation, and infrastructure build-out in unserved areas, the very guiding principles recently identified by the [[Federal-State Joint Board [[on Universal Service, which advises the Commission]].

So a big compliment here to the FCC and its broadband team for moving down this road.  While the world of telecommunications and how consumers use these services has changed, the USF hasn’t.  It’s still predominantly used to finance Plain Old Telephone Service.  Everyone recognizes that the fund and how it’s administered is broken and needs to be fixed.  Now, it’s time to move towards restructuring the USF to bring broadband access to those who are currently not served, in areas in which competitive market forces alone have been insufficient to achieve rapid broadband deployment.

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FCC’s Open Internet Rulemaking: A Way Forward

Posted by: Jim Cicconi on December 15, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Whatever one’s perspective, everyone involved in our industry knows how long the road to the FCC’s current proceeding on an open Internet has been.  Today, I sent a letter to the FCC, which is similar to a filing I made last month.  These letters, which build on the work and thoughts of others, outline a way forward – a middle ground that will accomplish the President’s, the Congress’, and the Commission’s goal of an open and universally available Internet.

Public policy often works best when it’s based on what has come before.  In this area, we have a good starting point:  the FCC’s existing Internet Policy Statement. The next building block on the way forward is a very thoughtful letter that Senator Olympia Snowe sent to the FCC on October 22.  She focused on maintaining today’s “openness and freedom” for users while ensuring that government doesn’t inadvertently undermine the efforts to achieve affordable, ubiquitous broadband.

This same focus also lies at the heart of the statement titled  “Finding Common Ground on an Open Internet,” jointly posted by Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Wireless, and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, on October 21, 2009.  Those companies, in our view, avoid embracing a strict nondiscrimination standard and instead focus on forms of discrimination that are unreasonable or anticompetitive.

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Posted by: Jim Cicconi on December 14, 2009 at 10:52 am

Welcome to the AT&T Policy Blog.  I’m excited to lay out what we hope to accomplish with the on-going dialogue you’ll find here in the days and months ahead.

I’ve been in Washington, DC for a long time (some might argue too long!), both in government and in the private sector.    Over the years, I’ve weighed in on many issues at meetings with policymakers, as a participant on panels, and during interviews with reporters.  Now, it’s time to expand the dialogue to include the blogosphere.  And while this may be a new format for me, I can assure you I’m looking forward to it.  One of my colleagues termed it “Jim Cicconi 2.0” (which, come to think of it, may not have been a compliment…!).

Regardless, though, it’s my hope that this blog will provide a meeting place where we can have thoughtful and productive discussions about a wide variety of issues relating to broadband deployment and adoption facing our country.

These issues affect ordinary Americans living in their homes far from Washington, not just those of us engaged in public policy debates.  How these issues are resolved will have a profound impact on their lives, and also on the economic, social, and civic matters that will define our nation in the 21st century.

In the AT&T Policy Blog, we’ll do our best to explain our perspective, and I’m sure you’ll do the same in your responses.  We promise to listen, consider all views, and to engage with you, just as we do with stakeholders all across the country and in government.  Sometimes we’ll agree, sometimes we’ll disagree, but always, I hope, we’ll strive to better understand each other’s views.

We won’t pretend we have all the answers, but we will always try to be straight with you.  I know lots of people who will read our postings have impressions of large companies, not all of them good.  But I can honestly tell you, based on my 11 years with AT&T, that this is a company where people try to do the best we can for our customers, our employees, our shareholders, the communities where we live and work, and the country we share.  I truly hope that our handling of the AT&T Policy Blog will allow you to feel the same.

Starting today, my team and I will be outlining our policy positions in regular contributions to this blog.  We hope you’ll take the time to let us know what you’re thinking as you respond to our posts.

I’m convinced that our open, honest and cordial debates can play a large part in helping our nation develop public policies in telecommunications and the Internet that benefit us all.

I’m looking forward to the conversations that lie ahead.

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