Leaning Toward the IP Future

Posted by: Joan Marsh on January 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Three years ago, AT&T commenced two technology transition trials with the goal of identifying and resolving operational, technical, and public policy issues associated with migrating legacy TDM services to an IP future.

Now, three years later, AT&T has achieved many of the goals it established for the trials:  the trials accelerated and increased the dialogue around the impacts of an IP transition on different customer segments; AT&T grandfathered numerous business TDM-based services with no evidence of customer disruption; and perhaps most importantly, customers that voluntarily transitioned to IP services during the trials continued to receive exceptional service quality and customer care.  In sum, the trials were a success in no small part due to the participation of and dialogue with key stakeholders representing persons with disabilities, seniors, the public safety community, federal, state and local governments, policymakers and others.

During this same time period, the FCC was busy as well.  The Commission issued two orders establishing a framework and rules for technology transitions, including processes and standards for discontinuing retail voice and wholesale services, as well as updating certain requirements for retiring legacy facilities.  While AT&T has challenged certain aspects of those orders, the rules of the road for the IP transition have now been established and the path forged.  As a result, we announced today that we are terminating the two trials. 

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Something Amiss in Washington

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 24, 2016 at 9:38 am

By Len Cali, AT&T Senior Vice President of Global Public Policy

Last week, I had the privilege of participating in the Digital Economy: Chances and Challenges conference in Prague. The Czech national regulatory authority, Česky telekomunikační úrad (“CTU”), under the leadership of Chairman Jaromir Novak, organized the conference jointly with ICANN.

The gathering offered me an opportunity to share AT&T’s view on innovation and regulation. Even more importantly, it allowed me to learn firsthand what policymakers and industry stakeholders are doing and thinking in eastern Europe. It should be no surprise that in this vibrant and technically sophisticated region of the world, much is underway with respect to smart cities, the transition to next generation networks, and extending broadband to all citizens.

Nonetheless, I was surprised to learn that Croatia has already completed the transition to an all-IP network and shut down its legacy PSTN central offices.  I was also impressed by the cutting edge work being done in Slovenia around innovative fixed wireless broadband technologies and services.  Most encouraging of all, I found many policymakers looking forward, aiming to safeguard consumer interests and address the challenges of the 21st century without looking backward or trying to pick winners and losers in the marketplace.

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What the Data Shows: Special Access is Not Very Special Any More

Posted by: Bob Quinn on January 20, 2016 at 3:48 pm

On Friday, Mother Nature willing, we will file our first set of comments analyzing the data submitted in the special access proceeding.  As a refresher course for the uninitiated, the special access services at issue here are not very special at all.  They are services sold mainly to businesses which provide pretty low speed data connections – almost 90% of which are 1.5 Mbps.  Businesses have traditionally used those connections to provide voice and data services as well as Internet access service.  Special access services were deregulated by the FCC back in 1999 (during the Bill Clinton administration) because of the significant competitive fiber investment that occurred in the wake of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The theory was that regulation was not necessary where competitive fiber had been deployed in a market.  However, after deregulation, some carriers continued to complain to the FCC that the agency’s rules had deregulated services even in areas where no one had built competitive facilities.

So, some 13 years later, the FCC announced it was going to re-examine the level of competition in these markets.  A funny thing had happened in those 13 years, of course.  The Internet – and particularly the broadband Internet market – exploded.  The FCC commissioned a massive team to craft a National Broadband Plan, which concluded that the focus of Internet policy should be to encourage investment in fiber and other technologies that could deliver gigabit services. The Broadband Plan also cited the need to develop a strategy to retire legacy technologies – like “not so special” access services – to make that fiber investment more economic.  The Commission has even more recently upped the definition of broadband to 25 Mbps (17x faster than the bulk of these services).  Consequently, when the FCC began its tortured trek over this 1.5 Mbps Bridge to Nowhere, we predicted that this backwards looking regulatory effort  would waste an enormous amount of industry and agency time on a meaningless and futile exercise over services that would be obsolete by the time we crossed the bridge.  Guess what?  While we are still – 3 ½ years later – just beginning our trek across that bridge, our predictions have quite predictably already come to pass.

To refresh, back in 1999 when the Bill Clinton FCC issued its order, it realized it did not have perfect insight (or data) into the level of actual facilities competition in the marketplace.  Therefore, it attempted to approximate that competition by looking at the number of competitors who had built fiber into a particular area (an MSA) and connected that fiber to the incumbent telephone company’s facilities.  To ensure that it did not over deregulate that market, the FCC permitted deregulation only in those areas where a very high percentage of telephone company offices were connected to competitive fiber (the specific criteria were called “triggers”).  To be sure, those triggers only captured some of the competitive providers in any particular MSA.  To give just one example, cable companies generally don’t build to telephone company offices, choosing to rely instead solely on their own network investment.  Consequently, they are not captured by the triggers   Despite that, the application of the triggers resulted in more than 250 MSAs across the country realizing some level of price deregulation, including the ability to lower prices from the tariffed rate.

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AT&T Statement on FCC’s
Tech Transitions Order

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 6, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Please attribute the following to Frank Simone, AT&T Vice President of Federal Regulatory:

“In the National Broadband Plan, the Commission clearly recognized the critical need to modernize our country’s communications system, and carriers have invested billions of dollars to make this happen. The ongoing transition from a circuit-switched network to an IP-based platform – over which voice, data and video services converge – has created extraordinary opportunities for consumers.  The order adopted today threatens to stifle this transition by erecting new regulatory obstacles that serve to benefit not consumers, investment or competition but rather select companies.

“The FCC cannot call on the industry to invest in more fiber deployment, raise the bar for what qualifies as a broadband service and then make it more difficult to retire services that do not even qualify as broadband.  We share the Commission’s goal to protect consumers as this revolutionary technological movement continues. But requiring carriers to prolong the use of and maintain an outdated infrastructure is not the way to go about doing that.”

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AT&T Statement on FCC’s
Proposed IP Transition Rules

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on November 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Please attribute the following to Bob Quinn, AT&T Senior Vice President of Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer:

“The principles the FCC’s IP Transition NPRM seeks to uphold – public safety, reliability, universal connectivity, competition and consumer protections – should be implemented in a manner that reflects the many marketplace and technological developments that today are driving the transition to next generation networks.  Customers are demanding higher speeds and more capacity, and a vibrant, competitive environment exists to provide robust, innovative options. The success of what Chairman Wheeler describes as the Fourth Network Revolution can be achieved by adapting the FCC’s technology transition framework in recognition of these realities while preserving the ability for all industry participants to continue to invest in faster and better Internet for consumers.”

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