Failing to Pass the Straight-Face Test

Posted by: Hank Hultquist on September 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Yesterday, AT&T filed comments with the Office of Management and Budget on the FCC’s woefully deficient analysis of the burdens associated with the so-called enhanced transparency requirements adopted in the 2015 Open Internet Order (OIO). The Commission’s analysis evinces a complete disregard for its responsibilities under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The FCC has not specifically identified the things Internet service providers (ISPs) must do to comply with the new transparency requirements; it has not separately estimated the burden of each requirement; it has not explained the benefits that would justify these requirements; and its lowball estimate of the overall costs is absurd on its face.

By way of background, the PRA requires agencies like the FCC to minimize the burden of required data collections. The FCC must obtain approval from OMB before any such collection can take effect. In this case, the FCC has had ample time to undertake a thorough analysis of the paperwork burdens of the OIO, yet has submitted a superficial, conclusory and slipshod analysis that OMB should reject. The treatment of just one of the new requirements, disclosure of packet loss, demonstrates the inadequacy of the FCC’s analysis.

To comply with the new transparency requirements, wireless providers will have to measure something they have not been required to measure or report previously (packet loss), in geographic areas where they do not currently take any similar performance measurements and may not have previously measured, and during undefined “peak hour” time periods. For AT&T, compliance with this requirement would cost far more than the FCC is estimating. Indeed, it could very well cost AT&T alone more than what the FCC has estimated for the entire industry to comply with all of the FCC’s transparency requirements because it could require extensive additional drive testing at a cost of many millions of dollars each year. Yet the FCC has estimated that the burden to the entire industry of all its transparency requirements, included those adopted in 2010, is only $640,000.

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The FCC Seizes the Reins on Privacy: Observations from Our Summer Internship

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm

By Lindsey Knapton, Alex McLeod, Sean Vallancourt, AT&T Summer Interns 

(The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the student authors and are not attributable to AT&T)

When we each arrived at AT&T’s DC offices earlier this summer for our internships, we knew that we would have a front seat for policy discussions around some of the most hotly debated topics, including net neutrality, privacy and the march toward 5G wireless technologies. Little did we know the discussions would take such an interesting turn after the D.C. Circuit released its long awaited net neutrality decision. While some claimed victory, others were left with unanswered questions regarding the Court’s decision. In US Telecom v. FCC, the Court allowed the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) offerings as telecommunications services rather than information services. The Court also determined that mobile broadband services are now commercial rather than private because mobile broadband is an interconnected service that is a part of the new public switched network that includes IP addresses. These decisions, which deviate from FCC precedent regarding ISPs and broadband Internet access services, were only marginally explained in the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order. Yet the Court accepted the FCC’s limited explanation as sufficient justification for its decision.

As a result of this decision, many scholars are left questioning: how much deference should administrative agencies receive in interpreting a Congressional statute? In Chevron, the Supreme Court required that an agency must give a reasonable explanation to justify its action but, after the DC Circuit decision, many question whether agencies should be held to a higher standard. As a result of the Court’s reclassification choices in US Telecom v. FCC, the FCC has extended its reach in regulating the telecommunications industry; and the impact of the D.C. Circuit’s decision will continue to affect all telecommunications operations, including privacy and wireless issues.

When the D.C. Circuit upheld the 2015 Open Internet Order, it was known that there would be significant restructuring of the privacy rules that govern ISPs. Before the FCC reclassified ISPs as common carriers, the sensitivity of data used and shared on the Internet by ISPs was subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s flexible regulation regime. The FTC’s rules did not apply only to ISPs – but to every player on the Internet, including edge providers, such as Google and Facebook. Since assuming sole authority over ISPs, the FCC has released a set of proposed privacy rules to provide clarity to an ecosystem it considers chaotic. Critics of the rules, however, assert that only confusion will arise from the FCC’s onerous proposals. While the FCC could have proposed rules to mirror the FTC’s longstanding regime, which has, according to many leading industry players, worked effectively, the FCC proposed a code of unprecedented heft, which could severely curtail the marketing practices of many major ISPs. While the rules have not yet been adopted – and while it is far too early to tell how they will affect the business practice of ISPs – they have already been tied to the recent merger of Verizon and Yahoo, which many observers interpret as a sign of things to come as ISPs expand their data marketing operation.

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Of Double Standards
And Situational Policy

Posted by: Jim Cicconi on February 18, 2016 at 6:22 am

After weeks of spin denying that his set top box proposal would create a black hole for privacy protections, the FCC Chairman now tells us not to worry because he will insist that Google “voluntarily” commit to the same privacy protections to which the rest of us are bound by FCC rules.

This astounding statement begs some unpacking.  And some perspective.

Let’s recall that this is the same Commission that rejected industry assurances of voluntary compliance with net neutrality principles.  Chairman Wheeler insisted that was insufficient, that the agency had to have “enforceable rules.”

This is also the same FCC that has said Federal Trade Commission privacy standards are insufficient, arguing the FCC must apply its own “enforceable rules”, quite possibly because they intend to impose a standard higher than that to which Google and others are held. And now we face the Chairman’s energetic endorsement of a Google proposal that it be allowed to co-opt and repackage as its own video content licensed and assembled by others, paying nothing to anyone for the infrastructure, content, or anything else, ignoring negotiated contracts and copyright protections … and unchecked by the rules that safeguard consumer privacy.  But, rest assured, the Chairman is ready to accept Google’s voluntary assurances.

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Jim Cicconi Reflects on 20 Years
Under 1996 Telecommunications Act

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 8, 2016 at 11:51 am

To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the Federal Communications Law Journal (FCLJ) has compiled 32 essays from people who were “involved in the Act’s drafting, implementation, and attendant legal challenges.”  Below is an excerpt from a piece written by Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs:

Passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 offers great perspective on today’s political and policy gridlock in Washington.  It signified a moment in time when an Administration and far-sighted legislators from both parties, holding different perspectives, but all keenly interested in the dawning Internet age, joined ranks to craft a statute that was far-reaching in its scope and visionary in its impact.

At bottom, the framers of the ’96 Act embraced a wise humility toward technology and its future development. They were conscious of the Communications Act of 1934’s sixty-year legacy, and wanted their work to last. It took nearly six years over three Congressional sessions to negotiate, compromise, draft and re-draft what ultimately became the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and their work provided a roadmap for the future of the nation’s communications landscape.

Indeed, the framers of the Act did their work better than they perhaps knew, piloting the ship of telecommunications policy through a foggy harbor into an open and unknown sea towards a destination of today’s cross platform communications marketplace. In retrospect, it is easy to forget how different things looked at the advent of the Internet. Back then, a consumer reached the Internet over a slow, twisted pair telephone line. The incumbent telephone companies who provided those lines were just starting to see the effects of competitive entry into their markets. Back then, the companies that comprised the current AT&T operated just over 70,000,000 switched access voice telephone lines. We didn’t provide any video services, and DIRECTV had just passed 1,000,000 video subscribers in the United States. The entire cellular industry had just over 44 million subscribers in the United States. The cable companies had not yet entered the voice market. The Internet existed but, broadband was still off in the future. It was a world where the dominant companies were traditional telephone companies, like Southwestern Bell, BellSouth, NYNEX and Bell Atlantic. Facebook, Google, and Twitter didn’t exist (Mark Zuckerberg was 11 years old when the Act passed). Apple was foundering in the wake of Microsoft’s dominance, having fired Steve Jobs eight years earlier.

The complete essay is available here.



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AT&T Statement on Release
Of FCC’s Net Neutrality Order

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 12, 2015 at 10:18 am

The following statement may be attributed to AT&T Senior Executive Vice President-External and Legislative Affairs Jim Cicconi:

“Unfortunately, the order released today begins a period of uncertainty that will damage broadband investment in the United States. Ultimately, though, we are confident the issue will be resolved by bipartisan action by Congress or a future FCC, or by the courts.”

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