Net Neutrality

Banning Paid Prioritization within a Viable and Sustainable Framework

Posted by: Bob Quinn on July 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Today, we filed comments at the FCC supporting the Commission’s attempt to re-craft the net neutrality rules that were vacated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Verizon v. FCC.  In short, we have laid out a viable and sustainable framework utilizing Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act, which re-establishes the balance achieved by the 2010 Open Internet Order, including banning paid prioritization – where an ISP prioritizes packets over the consumer’s last mile broadband Internet access service without being directed to perform that prioritization by the consumer.  Paid prioritization has been at the heart of the net neutrality debate since it began in earnest over a decade ago (AT&T has blogged several times on this point in earlier iterations of this debate).  We disagree with those critics who claim that the Commission cannot ban paid prioritization under Section 706 and explain why they are wrong as well as why it would be much more difficult to justify a similar ban of paid prioritization under Title II.

AT&T also supported the FCC’s 2010 rules, including the ones which were ultimately vacated by the Verizon court.  We recognized then, and now, that those rules represented a purposeful and careful balance between ensuring the openness of the Internet and promoting the continued massive infrastructure investments necessary to deliver to American consumers the ever increasing amount of bandwidth needed by the enormously innovative products and services being created in technology communities across the United States.  The FCC reached this balance by utilizing a form of light touch regulation under Section 706 rather than decades-old Title II utility regulation requirements – requirements that would actually impose barriers to broadband infrastructure investment in contravention of Section 706. Read more

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Net Neutrality and Modern Memory

Posted by: Jim Cicconi on June 6, 2014 at 10:15 am

I saw last month’s House Commerce hearing with Chairman Wheeler and was struck once again by the animated discussion revolving around “paid prioritization,” “fast lanes/slow lanes,” and Section 706 authority versus Title II regulation.  The debate feels a bit like the movie Groundhog Day… we’ve all been here before.  And just as in 2010, there doesn’t seem to be a common understanding of “paid prioritization,” the FCC’s 706 authority, or the scope of Title II regulation.

So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to cut through some of the current debate by starting with the common understandings we all reached in 2010 after years of argument.  Let’s begin with “paid prioritization.”  According to Free Press, there were three troubling “discriminatory business models” that could create fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet:

• “Pay-for-Play” – where an ISP might refuse to carry content unless the content company pays them “additional fees above normal transit costs.”
• “Pay-for-Priority” – where edge providers might pay ISPs for prioritizing traffic on the consumer’s broadband Internet access service.
• “Vertical Prioritization” – where an ISP might prioritize its own vertical content and services on the user’s broadband Internet access service.

In 2010, many of us noted that the net neutrality debate revolved around unlikely hypotheticals, not any actual, pending or contemplated actions.  Mind you, not a single ISP then or now has asserted a desire or right to engage in any of these practices to create “fast lanes and slow lanes.”  AT&T certainly has no plans or intent to change its position on this. Read more

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AT&T Statement on Net Neutrality

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on February 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm

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

“AT&T has built its broadband business, both wired and wireless, on the principle of Internet openness.  That is what our customers rightly expect, and it is what our company will continue to deliver.  That is also why we endorsed the FCC’s original rule on net neutrality, and is why we pledged to adhere to openness principles even after the recent court decision.

“As the FCC embarks on a new proceeding to clarify its authority under section 706, we will, of course, participate constructively and in the same spirit with which we worked with the Commission on its original rule.  We believe the FCC possesses sufficient authority under section 706 to preserve Internet freedom and openness, and that it can do so without over-regulation.  Indeed, and as the court recognized, section 706 was clearly intended by Congress as a tool to enhance broadband investment and deployment.  Thus, it is vital that, as the FCC defines its authority, it do so in a way that does not inhibit the very investment section 706 was intended to assist.” Read more …

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AT&T Statement on the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit Open Internet Decision

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on January 14, 2014 at 3:55 pm

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

“AT&T has been committed to the open Internet since our endorsement of the FCC’s statement of Internet freedoms in 2004. We worked constructively to help craft the FCC’s net neutrality rule, and testified in support of it in the Congress. As the FCC assesses the impact of today’s court decision, AT&T can assure all of our customers and stakeholders that our commitment to protect and maintain an open Internet will not change.” Read more

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Enabling FaceTime Over Our Mobile Broadband Network

Posted by: Bob Quinn on August 22, 2012 at 8:56 am

Last week, we confirmed plans to make FaceTime available over our mobile broadband network for our AT&T Mobile Share data plan customers.

FaceTime is a video chat application that has been pre-loaded onto every AT&T iPhone since the introduction of iPhone 4.  Customers have been using this popular app for several years over Wi-Fi.  AT&T does not have a similar preloaded video chat app that competes with FaceTime or any other preloaded video chat application.  Nonetheless, in another knee jerk reaction, some groups have rushed to judgment and claimed that AT&T’s plans will violate the FCC’s net neutrality rules.  Those arguments are wrong.

Providers of mobile broadband Internet access service are subject to two net neutrality requirements: (1) a transparency requirement pursuant to which they must disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of their broadband Internet access services; and (2) a no-blocking requirement under which they are prohibited, subject to reasonable network management, from blocking applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services.

AT&T’s plans for FaceTime will not violate either requirement.  Our policies regarding FaceTime will be fully transparent to all consumers, and no one has argued to the contrary.  There is no transparency issue here.

Nor is there a blocking issue.  The FCC’s net neutrality rules do not regulate the availability to customers of applications that are preloaded on phones.  Indeed, the rules do not require that providers make available any preloaded apps.  Rather, they address whether customers are able to download apps that compete with our voice or video telephony services.   AT&T does not restrict customers from downloading any such lawful applications, and there are several video chat apps available in the various app stores serving particular operating systems. (I won’t name any of them for fear that I will be accused by these same groups of discriminating in favor of those apps.  But just go to your app store on your device and type “video chat.”)  Therefore, there is no net neutrality violation. Read more

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Cicconi on Net Neutrality Before Congressional Hearing

Posted by: AT&T Blog Team on March 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology today held a hearing on H.J. Res 37, disapproving of the FCC’s net neutrality order, which the Commission adopted in December.  Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President of External and Legislative Affairs, delivered the following statement:

Chairman Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo, Chairman Upton, Chairman Waxman, Chairman Barton, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today on behalf of my company, AT&T.  I recognize it is unusual to be asked to testify on a resolution on which we’ve not taken a position.  However, as I’m sure all of you know, we have been involved for years in the issue that underlies H.J. Res. 37, and that is the protracted dispute over net neutrality regulation by the FCC.

Let me first stress that AT&T has long supported the “broadband principles” laid out by the FCC six years ago.  We support an open Internet, and have promised to abide by that concept.  But like many issues that start from a shared belief, this one quickly devolved into a long and contentious debate over specifics:  whether the FCC should be able to enforce the broadband principles; whether a broad set of rules was needed; what legal authority the FCC has to put any such rules in place.  And all of this despite any real evidence of a problem.

As in most regulatory debates, this one has not lacked for radical voices.  Many sought heavy-handed government regulation and control of free markets… some for commercial advantage, others to advance their own ideology.   Since this debate began back in 2005, AT&T has consistently opposed any FCC regulation of Internet services or facilities.  This is still our strong preference today.  We feel the antitrust laws, the Federal Trade Act, and the discipline of highly competitive markets are more than adequate to police any potential abuses. Read more