By Wilson Scarbeary & Tristan Strong, AT&T 2019 Federal Regulatory Summer Interns
Before both of us arrived at the AT&T offices in Washington, D.C. to begin our summer internship, we had heard the rallying cry of politicians, pundits, and the telecommunications industry: the US needs to win the race to 5G. While neither of us were quite sure where to find the hypothetical finish line, we knew that starting on day one we would be helping AT&T sprint headfirst toward making 5G a reality for all Americans. What we didn’t realize was just how quickly our 10-week internship would race by. But as the saying goes, “time flies when you’re having fun.”
Every day of our internship brought new and exciting challenges to tackle. Early on in our internship, Joan Marsh, AT&T Executive Vice President of Regulatory & State External Affairs, gave us an exciting and daunting project – research and report on a proposal for antitrust regulation of digital platforms. Joan told us that digital antitrust would be “the regulatory issue of our time.” Before we even began our research, we knew she was right. While our research might not have gotten us any closer to a definitive answer on how best to define, let alone tackle this problem, our presentation led to a lively and passionate discussion among the entire Federal Regulatory team at AT&T.
Beyond working on antitrust issues, Tristan spent his summer working on complex legal issues involving robocalling, signal blocking, rural broadband, and FCC enforcement matters. He found it particularly interesting to see the evolution of FCC enforcement and how different administrations enforced the law. Furthermore, Tristan began to understand the importance of establishing a strong brand reputation, fostering growth by delivering quality service, and supporting legislation that enables continuous improvement.
AT&T has a reputation for innovation in telecommunications and digital media and improving the lives of their 250,000 employees across the nation. Tristan was incredibly proud to work with and learn from so many gracious individuals who took time out of their busy schedules to improve his legal knowledge, his policy knowledge, and his historical knowledge of the industry. Not only did he learn more about the telecommunications industry and federal regulatory law, he learned a great deal about how to be successful in a corporate legal atmosphere because of the amazing people at AT&T lending their expansive knowledge to him. He hopes that this knowledge will continue to benefit him as he continues his career in intellectual property and privacy law.
Wilson came into his internship excited to jump into the world of spectrum policy, a critical aspect of AT&T’s race to 5G. Before coming to law school, Wilson was a passionate advocate for climate and conservation policy.
He found the issues presented by spectrum management to a be an interesting intersection of resource conservation and technology policy. While working on issues including the C-Band and 5.9 GHz proceedings, he listened to input from a variety of stakeholders each hoping to convince the FCC of the wisdom of their individual proposals. Perhaps his biggest takeaway from this experience was that “lobbying” isn’t as dirty of a word as one might believe after listening to the talking heads on cable news.
The “special interests” that pundits demonize are often representing genuine concerns about their continued ability to provide increasingly critical services to customers and expand opportunities for employees. Even when some commenters couldn’t see eye-to-eye on an issue, they each recognized the strongly held convictions of their opponents and often sought to find common ground. Wilson hopes that the lessons and experience he gained over the course of the summer will serve him well in his second year of law school, particularly in his Telecom Law and Policy class.
While neither of us will be here when AT&T eventually crosses the 5G “finish line”, we have hope that our experiences over our summer will enable us to lead the race towards the next frontier.
Thanks to AT&T, and everyone in the D.C. Office for welcoming us with open arms and sharing their wisdom and experience with us!
Tristan Strong is a rising 2L at the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. He received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from Davidson College in North Carolina.
Wilson Scarbeary is a rising 2L at the University of Colorado Law School. He received his undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.