AT&T Statement on U.S. Court of Appeals Net Neutrality Decision

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on June 14, 2016 at 11:04 am

The following may be attributed to David McAtee, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel:

“We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal.”

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AT&T Statement on Bogus
Set-Top Box Privacy Complaint

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on June 9, 2016 at 12:14 pm

The following may be attributed to Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs:

“AT&T’s use of anonymous and aggregate set-top box information is entirely consistent with the statute. Our disclosures tell our customers exactly how we use that data and provide tools for customers to opt out.  Frankly, this complaint is bogus, and seems mainly designed to distract the public from the overwhelming bipartisan opposition to the FCC’s controversial set-top box plan.  That plan itself will erode existing consumer privacy protections, not to mention its many other harms.  Because the plan’s few remaining supporters have no answer to that charge, they’ve decided to invent a false privacy claim.  This smacks of desperation, and it also carries the whiff of hypocrisy.  It’s further proof, if any is needed, that the plan’s supporters have lost the public policy debate on this issue.”

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The Privacy Misdirection

Posted by: Bob Quinn on May 27, 2016 at 8:02 am

Today, we will file our official comments in the Commission’s privacy proceeding. The fundamental message will be that the FCC should follow the FTC’s lead and adopt a notice and consent framework for privacy that is entirely consistent with the FTC framework that has governed since the inception of the Internet.  That is contrary to the FCC’s current proposal neatly summarized by FCC Chairman Wheeler at a recent hearing: “For decades, the Commission has steadfastly protected consumers against misuse of their information by [telephone companies] ….  It only makes sense that consumers should enjoy similar privacy protections in the world of broadband.”  The problem with the FCC’s current approach is that it doesn’t reflect the reality of how the internet actually works.

That “misperception” is captured by a wrong-headed conclusion in the NPRM that ISPs are uniquely in a position to develop highly detailed and comprehensive profiles of their customers.  It is just not true.  In a prior blog, I talked about Prof. Peter Swire’s paper commissioned to help educate the FCC on the different data collection capabilities of all the platforms operating in the internet ecosystem.  [Not] surprisingly, that paper was neither cited nor referenced in the NPRM.

So, it shouldn’t be a shock that a recent Future of Privacy Forum blog post explained that the FCC’s proposed rules reflect “a fundamental misunderstanding of the current online advertising ecosystem, which is fully capable of tracking individual behavior across the Internet as well as between devices.” The post visually illustrates how a consumer’s visit to a single website (WebMD.com) actually results in information being shared with, and received from, 24 third party sites. Once these connections are established, these ad networks are then able to track the consumer and link data about that consumer as she/he browses the internet. If the connection is to a party that has personal information about you (e.g., a social media or email platform), that third party can easily append this new web browsing information back to your personal profile of your internet activity. If the connection is made via a mobile device, the unique device advertising id allows the third party to add to or build a similar profile of the internet activity specific to that device.  So, when the Chairman testified that when you make a decision to access Google, WebMD or Facebook that “only one entity collects all of that information,” he was just flat out wrong.

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AT&T Welcomes ITC Report on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on May 19, 2016 at 1:53 pm

Yesterday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent agency, released its report on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. The following statement may be attributed to Tim McKone, AT&T Executive Vice President of Federal Relations:

“We are encouraged by the ITC’s report, which finds that the TPP would help develop cross-border trade in services and would benefit the U.S. economy.

“AT&T supports Congressional approval of TPP. Trade agreements allow countries to compete on a level-playing field by opening up markets and raising global standards. Once adopted, TPP will help establish 21st Century rules for all sectors of the economy, including the digital economy, and will promote U.S. economic growth, job creation and investment.”

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Regulation over Innovation…Again?

Posted by: Bob Quinn on May 6, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Yesterday, 60 members of Congress joined an already significant chorus of bipartisan Congressional voices questioning the impact that Google’s set-top box proposal will have on consumers and the broader video marketplace.  This time the focus was on the negative impact the Google proposal would have on the ability of smaller/rural video providers to continue innovating and investing in the intensely competitive video marketplace. For those keeping score at home, 154 members of Congress have now written to FCC Chairman Wheeler to express their concerns about the Commission’s proposed rulemaking, which recommended adopting the Google set-top box proposal in a 3-2 party-line vote back in February.

The concerns raised in these letters are not, however, party-line concerns; they run the gamut from infrastructure investment and innovation, to the disparate impact the proposal would have on minority programmers, to privacy, to copyright and piracy.  When Chairman Wheeler first discussed recommending the Google set-top box proposal back in January, he assured lawmakers that  minority programming would be enhanced and not harmed, copyright would be protected, existing privacy regulations would continue to apply and the proposal would not impact the capability of broadband and video companies to continue to invest in infrastructure.  Given the chance to review the actual FCC proposed rulemaking, however, it is now apparent to everyone that none of those concerns were seriously addressed in the item.

One of the main issues raised by minority programmers and broadcasters was whether the contractual provisions between the programmers and video distributers (the cable or satellite company), which governed terms like channel placement and advertising, could be enforced on third-party set-top box and application providers.  That specific issue was not addressed by the FCC, which rather summarily concluded that because rules had not been necessary in a CableCard regime, none should be necessary here.  Similarly, while copyright was listed as a priority, no real solutions were proposed and there was no answer whatsoever to the content owners’ concerns that they were being forced essentially to provide content to entities that were not required to enter into contracts with the content owner – thereby denying them one of the main protections in U.S. Copyright law.

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