AT&T rails against proposed FCC reclassification

May 9, 2014
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AT&T rails against proposed FCC reclassification

In the ongoing Net Neutrality debate, AT&T has chimed in claiming that a proposed change simply won’t help. The company is specifically speaking about reclassification of broadband Internet as a telecommunications service. They claim that making broad, sweeping changes don’t actually help anyone, especially the consumer.


The change would make broadband providers subject to the same rules that govern the telecommunications industry, largely unchanged since the mid-1930s. The outcry for reclassification comes after a federal appeals court ruled the FCC can’t impose rules to even the Internet playing field. Essentially, without reclassification, some feel the FCC is powerless to stop the likes of AT&T from cashing in, charging deep-pocketed content providers to push info to us faster or more reliably.

AT&T, in a complaint filed to the FCC, makes several points about why reclassification is bad for them. Hitting at the crux of their argument is this excerpt:

The key legal rationales for any Title II reclassification decision would thus necessarily extend to any Internet provider that holds itself out to customers as arranging for the transmission of data from one point on the Internet to another, whether or not it owns transmission facilities. As discussed above, this category would extend to ISPs such as Earthlink and AOL that do not own last-mile transmission facilities; to content delivery networks (“CDNs”) such as Akamai that hold themselves out to the commercial public as transporters of data to distant points on the Internet; to providers of e-readers like Amazon.com, which provides Internet access through the Kindle; to companies like Google that provide advertising-supported Internet search services and, on behalf of countless commercial customers, arrange for the transmission of advertising content to end users; and to a variety of other online transport providers ranging from Netflix to Level 3 to Vonage. In short, Title II reclassification would be a sledgehammer, not a scalpel.

You can read the entirety of the complaint of you like, but the overriding missive is that AT&T would have to alter how they do things, and possibly restructure currently negotiated agreements. They feel that reclassification unduly affects them negatively.

What they seem to be missing is that reclassification doesn’t have to be a blanket ruling, affecting all things immediately. They did, however, make veiled threats to keep the FCC tied up in litigation if they attempt to reclassify.

When it comes to the “last mile”, which is the content that ultimately reaches you, the battle is heating up. Companies like AT&T want to control it as they please, while the FCC aims to do what they can to keep everything on an even keel. To date, there has been no nefarious activity on the part of providers, but all the pushback suggests carriers like AT&T wish to do as they please, . Of course, this isn't the first time they've cried foul over net neutrality and "last mile" service.

Source: Ars Technica


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