AT&T Statement on Chairman Pai’s Process Reform Pilot Program

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 2, 2017 at 11:33 am

The following statement may be attributed to Joan Marsh, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“Clear and transparent processes lead to better regulatory results. FCC Chairman Pai made clear his commitment to these goals with the voting process reform he enacted at his first Open Meeting.

“Today’s announcement underscores that commitment even further. The pilot program of releasing proposed rules to the public, before they are voted on by the FCC, allows for greater public engagement and ultimately better government actions.  We applaud Chairman Pai’s and his fellow Commissioners’ efforts to improve the agency’s transparency to produce better results.”

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Wireline Bureau BDS Document Dump

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on June 29, 2016 at 4:21 pm

The following may be attributed to Bob Quinn, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“For months, the FCC has been pushing aside the APA and due process in this proceeding. This is especially troubling when the policies the agency seems to be pursuing will have such a devastating impact on the incentives of all companies to invest in fiber infrastructure in the United States. Over and over, the Commission has modified and updated data that are supposed to be the foundation of its analysis without allowing parties sufficient time to adjust to the constantly moving target.  Yesterday, the Commission released the peer review responses to its third-party economist’s study (the study which constitutes the analytical core of its NPRM) two months after they were received by the Commission, and on the same day comments on the NPRM were due.  The Commission did this despite having assured all parties that it would release the peer review data when completed, which should have been two months ago.

“To put it another way, the FCC released an NPRM which it knew (at the time of release) was based on a study that peer review had determined was flawed. It then required the industry to file comments on that flawed study. And once comments were filed, the Commission performed a huge data dump on the industry (which we will now have to unpack and comment upon) containing these previously withheld peer reviews and additional analyses that purport to respond to them.  Moreover, instead of having their hired third party economist address the comments from his peers on his paper, the Commission assigned that task to the same FCC staff which will write the final rules in this proceeding.  This is completely unorthodox and defeats the entire purpose of having a third party study in the first place.

“Whatever the FCC’s excuse for delaying the release of this critical data, the lack of due process only reinforces that this agency is driving to reach a pre-ordained outcome. This is the very thing that is not supposed to happen under the Administrative Procedures Act.  Rather than arriving at a sound policy decision based on unbiased factual analysis, the Commission seems determined to once again put its thumb on the scale, picking winners and losers in the market based on their own arbitrary predetermined interests.  Further, the agency appears to be ignoring the Commission’s statutorily required processes in order to achieve that desired result.   Actions like this ultimately tarnish the agency’s reputation and leave the Commission open to claims that it is merely carrying out a politically motivated agenda rather than acting as an independent agency operating in accordance with the APA.  The FCC may be in a hurry to check every box on its agenda before January, but that in no way excuses the process abuses we are seeing.”

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AT&T Statement on FCC’s Outage Reporting Rules for Submarine Cables

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on June 24, 2016 at 12:29 pm

The following may be attributed to Bob Quinn, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“Submarine cable facilities have important national security and commercial implications.  For this reason, a coalition representing cable providers sought to give the FCC constructive input on a meaningful yet reasonable cable outage reporting framework.  Today’s order, however, perpetuates flawed assumptions from the recent Part 4 Order on terrestrial facilities – such as requiring outage reports for events that simply affect redundancy of service – and woefully underestimates the costs and burdens of compliance. These new regulatory requirements and deadlines will do little to enhance the resiliency of submarine cable facilities.

“Under this new regulatory regime, providers will be required to file an initial report within eight hours of determining that an outage is reportable, decreasing to four hours over time, and an interim report within 24 hours of receiving a cable repair plan.  International undersea cables, which are often jointly managed by a large number of companies from many different countries, extend from continent to continent and are not easily accessible.  The adopted intervals for the initial report are insufficient given the logistical issues associated with international operations and the significant amount of coordination necessary amongst companies. And changing the interval over time needlessly increases the costs and complexity of implementing the new requirements.

“Further, the order’s conclusion that these new reporting requirements be implemented within six months is unreasonable and disregards industry input.  Given the amount of coordination, and investments in new technology for older submarine cables necessary to implement a new reporting system, members of the industry had sought as much as 18 months to put the new framework in place.  AT&T anticipates that it will require much longer than six months for many of our submarine cables, which are older and jointly owned with multiple foreign partners.

“This new framework will impose substantial costs and burdens on providers without identifying corresponding benefits during times when the principal objective should be repairing the undersea cable facilities, not completing unnecessary and redundant reporting to the government.”

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Business Data Services:
New Name, Same Old Problem

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on April 27, 2016 at 1:00 pm

By Caroline Van Wie, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory

Tomorrow, the FCC will release a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the aim of resetting the conversation on “business data services” (BDS), the Commission’s new name for the decade-old proceeding on special access services. Despite the new moniker, we fear that this proceeding will just be more of the same – a proposal to increase regulation on services provided by those actually investing in fiber (incumbent providers (ILECs) and cable companies) to benefit a handful of companies that want to continue avoiding investing in fiber infrastructure themselves.  We agree with Chairman Wheeler that “competition is a facilities-based issue.”  And that’s why the Commission should instead be asking what it can do to incent more fiber build-out and facilities-based competition throughout the country.

The FCC initiated this proceeding in 2005 to determine whether the regulatory regime for special access services that it set up in 1999 (called “Price Flex”) was working.  The Price Flex regime gave ILECs flexibility to contract and set rates for special access services (oops, I mean business data services) where they could show that facilities-based competitors were present in a market.  Competitive providers (CLECs) have faulted this regime over the years, arguing it deregulated ILEC services in areas without adequate competition.  In response, the FCC began the process of collecting detailed location and pricing information on BDS to examine the actual state of competition.

Despite the CLECs’ best efforts, economists have reviewed these data, and their findings may surprise those who believed the Price Flex relief deregulated in areas without facilities-based competition.  In fact, the opposite is true! The data show that sunk competitive facilities are present in more than 95% of all MSA census blocks where businesses purchase BDS. These census blocks account for about 97% of all the locations that use BDS.  And 99% of all businesses are located in these areas.  This review shows that the Price Flex relief was actually under-inclusive. The data confirm that there are sunk competitive facilities in areas that were granted regulatory relief and, in fact, that there are lots of other areas that were not deregulated where competitive facilities are also present.

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The FCC’s Misguided Quest

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on April 25, 2016 at 11:33 am

In comments filed on Friday in the FCC’s set-top box proceeding, we observe that, like an old general fighting the last war, this Commission seems to be making its stand for a technology that is rapidly being supplanted. As Tim Cook has said, and as almost everyone knows, the future of TV is apps. But the FCC is proposing to re-engineer MVPD networks and video business models in a misguided quest to keep the world safe for set-top boxes.

To justify its hyper-regulatory proposal, the FCC alleges that consumers are “locked into” set-top boxes, and do not have choices in how to navigate MVPD services. In fact, MVPDs are rapidly moving to make their content available on as many devices as possible through the use of applications. This trend is exhibiting the “hockey stick” kind of growth that often characterizes technology adoption. Yet, for some reason, this consumer driven move away from special purpose devices to smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, gaming consoles and streaming devices is insufficient for the FCC.

Instead of jumping on the app bandwagon, the FCC proposes to require MVPDs artificially to split their service into separate information streams. Such a division would give third parties, like Google and Tivo, access to customer viewing data that MVPDs are otherwise required to protect from disclosure. It would also allow those third parties to brand the service as their own, re-design channel line-ups and service guides, and place their own advertisements on top, underneath, or around the ads that programmers might otherwise expect to accompany their content. All without the consent of the MVPD or the rights holders.

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