Congress, Not the Courts,
Should Decide Apple Case

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 3, 2016 at 2:15 pm

By David McAtee, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel

Today, AT&T filed a “friend of the court” brief with the magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, urging the court to vacate its order requiring Apple to take some fairly extraordinary steps to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone used by one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shootings.

This case involves two interests that all Americans share: keeping our citizens safe and protecting our personal privacy.  As a company committed to both, the critical issue to AT&T is whether those interests will be balanced on an ad hoc basis by judges presiding over individual cases or by Congress providing a clear, uniform legal framework for all participants in the new digital economy.  We felt it important to add our voice to this conversation because we believe that, as a matter of law and policy, Congress is the right body to decide this balance.

Technology has changed dramatically since Congress last addressed these issues in 1994.  Then, Congress focused on what telecommunications carriers like AT&T may be required to do to assist law enforcement and national security officials.  Now, the government seeks data stored by many other types of companies, from device manufacturers to social media, search, and applications companies, among others.  But our laws have not kept pace with technology.

Only Congress can address these issues in a sufficiently comprehensive, uniform, and fair manner.  All of us—the government, the courts, consumers and companies—need clear and uniform rules that can be produced only through a broadly-informed, transparent and accountable legislative process.  In the meantime, we should not consider the All Writs Act, which merely authorizes the judiciary to enforce existing law, as a substitute for that process.

Like all Americans, we were deeply saddened by the tragic events of San Bernardino.  Without question, the government should use every lawful means to investigate those crimes, and that includes compelling Apple’s cooperation to the full extent permitted by law.  In this case, however, the government seeks more than what can be supported under the law as it is written today.  The solution is for Congress to pass new legislation that provides real clarity for citizens and companies alike.

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Red Herrings and Bogeymen: Setting the Record Straight on TruePosition’s Misinformation Campaign

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on December 12, 2014 at 10:45 am

By Joe Marx, AT&T Assistant Vice President of Federal Regulatory

TruePosition and its fully-controlled FindMe911 coalition is at it again, spreading misinformation and ill-informed criticisms of the APCO, NENA, and Wireless Industry Roadmap for Improving Location Accuracy.  Others have blogged to explain the benefits and merits of the Roadmap, and it’s our experience that the more people hear about the voluntary agreement and fully understand the enormous improvements it will bring to finding wireless callers in times of emergency, the more they like it and support it.

We don’t expect to convert TruePosition, or its well-known spokesperson Jamie Barnett, but we can set the record straight on the misinformation campaign they are waging in an attempt to raise fears, uncertainties and doubts.

TruePosition alleges that the carrier approach depends entirely on “new and untested technologies.” Setting aside the fact that TruePosition did not participate in the independent test bed established by the FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) and that its technologies are not mentioned even once in the FCC’s test report, this allegation is simply not true.  Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies have been in use for years in commercial location services, and are central to the current wireless ecosystem in ways that will drive strong incentives for further innovation and lasting relevance for years to come. By associating enhanced 911 (e911) with commercial location services, public safety can harness that innovation to its direct benefit – and the benefit of wireless consumers everywhere – rather than having to settle for proprietary 911-only location solutions that evolve only in response to new mandates. In contrast, the database approach of the Roadmap enables continual improvements in indoor location accuracy without need of a lengthy carrier-deployment process.

TruePosition also wrongly suggests that the Roadmap doesn’t require carriers to provide dispatchable address/location. Again, not true. There are specific requirements for the carriers to build a dispatchable address database and to enable 100% of handsets sold to support the dispatchable address functionality. And given this investment and increasingly difficult performance metrics, carriers will use dispatchable addresses to meet these milestones. It is a win for public safety and a win for consumers.

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AT&T on Industry ‘911’ Location Accuracy Consensus Plan

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on November 18, 2014 at 6:50 pm

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

“AT&T is proud to be part of the ‘911’ Consensus Plan filed today.  We have long relied on expertise from APCO and NENA to lead the way on 911 issues, and believe the robust framework filed today will respond to public safety’s call for more accurate location information, particularly for calls originating indoors.  The framework seeks to leverage indoor location technologies increasingly available for commercial applications to deliver to first responders a ‘dispatchable’ location for indoor 911 calls – a unique civic address, including critical apartment, floor or suite information.  This approach improves on current technology as well as the solutions proposed by certain vendors that provide only a rough approximation of a caller’s location, a result that is far short of the dispatchable address that first responders need and the public deserves.

“APCO and NENA should be applauded for their continued leadership in this area and we look forward to working with the Commission on implementing the next generation of location solutions.”

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Text-to-911: A Work In Progress

Posted by: Bob Quinn on August 7, 2014 at 10:11 am

At the August 8th Open Meeting, the FCC  is scheduled to vote an item that purports to impose text-to-911 obligations on the US wireless carriers that have not yet voluntarily agreed to provide that service and on Over the Top or OTT text providers.  As you will recall, in late 2012, the 4 major wireless carriers agreed voluntarily to implement text-to-911 capabilities on their SMS platforms.  Because public safety obligations should be platform and technology neutral, the Commission should be applauded for seeking to make text-to-911 universally available, including to Americans with disabilities that may seek to text using an OTT texting application.  But the item currently circulating misses that mark on a number of fronts.

I would start by observing that “texting services” are in the process of undergoing a significant transformation in the underlying technology of delivering those services.  Five years ago, text message services were the sole province of the wireless companies using SMS technology to send and receive consumer texts.  With three then-teenagers living under my roof, my unlimited text plan spared me from having to try to “force” my teenagers to communicate the old fashioned way (you know, talking) when the number of texts on my bill regularly exceeded 15,000.  This month, same three kids (one is no longer a teenager), but the number of “billed SMS text messages” was under 900.  They are still sending out an equal or greater number of texts mind you (they certainly haven’t started communicating the old fashioned way). It is just that those messages are sent via IP applications rather than the SMS platform.

Which brings me to the Commission Order on text-to-911.  For starters, I want to point out that AT&T committed to provide text-to-911, as well as bounce-back messages (where text-to-911 is not available), over the existing SMS technology and has implemented that commitment this year. This new Order would extend those obligations to smaller carriers and to “Interconnected” Text Messaging Applications – roughly defined as texting applications that allow a person to text anyone with a telephone number.  The problem is that a lot of the OTT apps actually used by consumers don’t use telephone numbers but are instead “closed” applications which only allow you to communicate with others who have downloaded the app.  Moreover, even the applications that have integrated with SMS, like iMessage, only fit the definition so long as the SMS technology remains in service; once that technology is retired, those apps no longer fit the definition.  So the “Interconnected Text Provider” extension doesn’t capture some of the larger applications out there and most of the OTT apps it does capture will lose those requirements when SMS technology goes away.  The Commission has put off consideration of those issues into a Further Notice.  Given that it has some hard decisions to make in that area and seeing how this market is in throes of a dramatic evolution, more analysis is probably not a bad thing.

There are two issues created by this Order, however, that potentially impact consumers’ confidence in text-to-911 actually working.  First, I think we will still have a consumer confusion issue surrounding the “Interconnected Text Provider” definition.  While smart lawyers at the agency will know which text providers fit the definition and which don’t, I am not certain those distinctions will be obvious to the hundreds of millions of consumers downloading texting applications.  Second, as explained above, the subset of OTT text services which meet the Interconnected Text Messaging Services definition satisfy their obligation by off-loading their 911 texts to the SMS platform native in the device. But unless the OTT service is integrated, like iMessage, it’s not clear at this time how or even whether this type of off-loading can be easily accomplished. 

All evidence points to the fact that texting is migrating quickly away from SMS to IP.  The Order assures SMS providers that as that migration evolves, SMS providers are permitted to retire that technology and migrate their services in a similar fashion to IP.  Our fear though is that despite those assurances, the heavy reliance on SMS technology will ultimately hinder the ability of SMS providers to retire that technology.  We fully support the Commission’s goal of ensuring that public safety obligations – including text-to-911 obligations – are platform and technology neutral.  But the FCC has much more work to do in the area of text-to-911 to actually accomplish that goal.

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AT&T Statement Regarding Commissioner Rosenworcel Remarks at APCO

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on August 6, 2014 at 5:17 pm

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

“AT&T is fully supportive of finding a solution that enables 911 Emergency Responders to locate callers using cellular phones indoors.  Indoor location accuracy has been an issue that has perplexed the industry and the public safety community for years.  We believe we are making progress towards an innovative solution that will radically improve location accuracy for consumers across the United States and will fully comport with the principles enunciated by Commissioner Rosenworcel earlier today. APCO and NENA have led the effort, working with industry, to provide consumers with the most reliable 911 infrastructure in the world.  We look forward to continue working with both APCO and NENA to finally solve location accuracy for wireless 911.”

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TOPICS: FCC, Public Safety
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