The FCC is likely going to rule that broadband should be reclassified later this month in order to better enforce what we all call net neutrality. The ruling will undoubtedly be met with much opposition from big companies, and AT&T has already begun the hemming and hawing over what may come by stalling their fiber optic build out. Now, AT&T is releasing their planned opposition to what the FCC will likely bring, laying out their incoming legal challenge for all to see.
AT&T Federal Regulatory VP Hank Hultquist outlined AT&T’s approach in a duo of blog posts yesterday afternoon, saying AT&T has “little hope” the FCC will reverse direction, “but the letters nonetheless try to set out what we see as significant infirmities with reclassification.”
The first of two letters tries to blur the lines of what a provider like AT&T even is should they be reclassified. Are they Internet service providers, or information conduits? Are they a telecommunications provider? With reclassification, AT&T wants clarity on that front. Under a Title II reclassification, which is expected to come with the FCC ruling, AT&T would be re-branded as a telecommunications provider, and subject to more oversight.
The second half of AT&T’s argument insists the FCC didn’t show their work, so to speak. AT&T is alleging the FCC ruled without doing their diligence, and has no analysis to back up a potential ruling AT&T sees as detrimental to their business. From AT&T’s letter:
The Commission did “not conduct a market power analysis” in the 2010 Open Internet Order and made no findings about whether any broadband provider — much less every broadband provider — has market power in the provision of broadband Internet access service to end user customers.14 Nor could the Commission make a nationwide finding that all providers of broadband Internet access service in all geographic markets have market power. As the Commission has recognized, any market power analysis would, among other things, have to be specific to the relevant geographic market.
The letter goes on to point out that the FCC’s own data shows “increasing levels of broadband competition”, but references now-dated broadband statistics.
We should hear more about the FCC’s plan to sidestep legal action Thursday. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has already said he expects legal action no matter which direction the FCC takes in this fork in the road, but that his commission would attempt to make the language of their ruling legally binding for anyone affected.