Posts Tagged ‘FCC’
AT&T, trying to avoid a FCC dope-slapping, announced that yes, it would allow Skype to make lower cost phone calls on the iPhone. Interestingly, this comes on the heels of Vonage’s iPhone client last week. Regardless of the outcome, don’t expect AT&T to rollover and play dead when it comes to net neutrality.
Allowing Skype and other mobile VoIP apps on iPhone to dial up phone calls on its 3G data network was in some respects inevitable. Pressure from both the FCC and Congress and a Democratic administration (Note to the Republican Party: You know where to get funding for 2010 and 2012, right?), meant either having a long, drag-out, dog-ugly PR fight with enough media floggings on how poor the AT&T’s 3G network already delivered — not exactly a winner when Verizon is looking to spin up LTE ASAP and the exclusives on the iPhone may be going away. Best to simply bite the bullet and keep the focus on more important battles.
Ironically, all those media complaints about poor iPhone/3G service will serve AT&T well when it has to go into FCC and Capital Hill hearings. “We need to have the ability to manage our network,” will cry AT&T executives, “Look at the problems we have now.” Will it quiet angry Congressmen? No. But expect Verizon to smile smugly on the panel.
Net neutrality had been relatively dormant under the previous administration, but an all-Democratic Congress and Administration has put the issue front-and-center. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski drew a line in the sand this week to carriers and they’re reacting with their usual party lines.
In a Monday speech at the Brookings Institute, Genachowski indicated the FCC would formalize net neutrality rules and tossed in two additions to the “Powell Principles” while he was at it. The first four are: consumers must be able to access the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, and attach non-harmful devices to the network.
Added to the list are : 5) To prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management and 6) Ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.
In October, the FCC will start a formalized process with a NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking), asking for comment from the community — yes, that sound you hear is the spin up of corporate lobbyists and their “paidroot” shills — and then maybe sometime next year, there will be actual rules that emerge for a vote.
Among the biggest complainers so far are the wireless network providers who already have been under fire for exclusive deals on phones. The mobile guys say that they need to be able to manage their networks due to bandwidth constraints — which kind of begs the question as to why AT&T offered the iPhone in the first place and the move to a data-intensive LTE world. Verizon’s stock response to any suggestion of government regulation boils down to “Everything is OK, we don’t need more government rules, these are not the droids you are looking for, please move on…”
Look for the real fireworks to cut loose this fall once the NPRM is issued and the PR machines of AT&T and Verizon start cranking.
Can we just cut to the chase and allow VoIP apps on the iPhone already, regardless of who does them and what network they use?
AT&T has apparently ‘ fessed up that, why yes, the iPhone deal does block VoIP apps from using its cellular network, but VoIP over Wi-Fi is somehow OK.
And Apple is still “reviewing” the Google Voice app because it mucks with its look-and-feel, changing the “experience.” Doesn’t this smack of buying an IBM PC and being told you have to use IBM’s software — rather than someone else’s? Don’t we have case law floating around on this particular point already? C’mon public policy lawyers, get your textbooks out and challenge this already!
After all the years of bitching and whining about “Think Different” and “1984,” Apple has demonstrated it is just as petty and can pull the same sort of crap as any other company intent on holding onto market share by Any Means Necessary. Being a snob is one thing, being a bully is another.
It has a good collusion buddy in AT&T, who doesn’t seem to think that its own actions won’t move the FCC to do something real soon. Maybe AT&T is right, but it should start worrying about the Next Big Thing rather than trying to pretend we’re in pre-monopoly land all over again.
Apple decides to pull the plug off of Google Voice-related apps, supposedly at the request (or a wink and a nod) from AT&T, because the App allows free text messaging and two cent per minute international calls. The Federal Communications Commission decides this Isn’t Right and has launched an investigation of sorts.
So the latest showdown on Net Neutrality begins, and it couldn’t come at a worse time for AT&T. Some members of Congress are already up in arms over the absurd profitability on text messaging along with the grumbling about extensive exclusivity on the iPhone. Verizon, being no dummy, decides to sit up straight and open up its “exclusive” arrangements to smaller carriers within six months and announces it will have a crack at the Palm Pre shortly, thereby further highlighting the oh-so-monopolistic-esque practices of AT&T.
Apple? It could care less. Apple does what Apple does and the rest of the world takes it or leaves it.
Google Voice is rolling out a web site for access to GV services, so now the whole app thing is about ready reach a new level of absurdity. Would AT&T go so far as to block access to the Google Voice website? Well, if it did, the torches and pitchforks would be out in full force from all sides, so I don’t think it’s going to happen. If it did, AT&T would have another public relations fiasco on its hands and Verizon would probably do another posturing stunt to show A) How nice it really is and B) Why the government really doesn’t need to regulate the free market…
So where’s Skype? One would have thought that Skype would have been at the top of the highest soapbox bellowing out the virtues of Net Neutrality, but the company has been strangely quiet as the Apple/AT&T-Google Voice cat fight has evolved. Perhaps this is because for all of Skype’s public rhetoric about Net Neutrality, the company has preferred appeasement to confrontation with a neutered version of Skype for the AT&T iPhone.
Or perhaps with Google Voice getting most of the spotlight and potentially stealing away long-distance minutes from Skype, Net Neutrality is a good idea for Skype so long as it doesn’t promote competitive alternatives…
What do you do with voice and the legacy telephone network? Everyone is such a hurry to get to the future that they don’t want to deal with today and tomorrow.
It is time for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take a (long overdue) time out and review the current status of the PSTN, then provide a roadmap for all stakeholders on how it will be managed for the next 20 years and/or when it is finally turned off.
Traditional landline service is declining year-over-year, but is it dying? Or will it bottom out and level off?
Verizon seems to be in a hurry to get FiOS installed, but at the expense of copper in service for DSL and voice service. Not everyone is going to get FiOS, so does this mean that “New” phone system will be built around wireless phones for the economically disadvantaged? If so, what does this translate to for additional/extended wireless coverage within buildings?
Tech and social media pundit Jeff Pulver is penciled in to make a trip to Washington D.C. on Tuesday, July 14, to promote the cause of HD Communications.
An agenda for the trip to the nation’s capital is still being finalized, but Pulver is expected to host a social media breakfast centered around HD Communications and a lunchtime briefing with telecommunications lawyers.
Pulver is no stranger to D.C., having hosted numerous events in the city and filed the so-called “Pulver Petition” at the Federal Communications Commission to gain regulatory relief for IP communications services from traditional telephony regulation.
Registration for the social media breakfast is being handled by Daniel Berninger (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What can the Obama Administration do for HD Communications? A look back at what Vice President Al Gore did before he won his Nobel Prize provides some clues.
Back in 1994, Al was the point many for “Reinventing Government” As a part of his mission, he put a “date certain” marker down for all of the executive agencies of the government to establish an internet presence by the fall of 1994. Needless to say, this action lit a fire under a lot of organizations who went out and put up websites, ranging to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to the Central Intelligence Agency. Nobody wanted to make Al or his acolytes unhappy.
When October 1, 2004 rolled around, government agencies were bragging about their shiny new websites and Internet connectivity. As a net result, the (U.S.) open standards-based Internet suddenly had a lot more intrinsic value for private industry, academia, and individual citizens. Subsequent administrations and Congresses, have continued to build upon that base, trying to out do the previous generation as to who has the coolest toys.
Back to the question of the day: What can the Obama Administration do for HD Communications?
With all due respect to the current Amtrak-loving Vice President, Joe Biden is no Al Gore when it comes to carrying the torch of technological advancement. Fortunately, President Obama has nominated both a national CTO and a well-admired Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Both have roles to play.
Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s CTO, will be responsible for promoting technology innovation including “national strategies for using advanced technologies to transform our economy and our society, such as fostering private sector innovation, reducing administrative costs and medical errors using health IT, and using technology to change the way teachers teach and students learn.”
HD voice = advanced technology to transform the way we communicate. Perfect fit.
Chopra could state the obvious:Existing technology for voice phone calls is in need of an upgrade, so the federal government and the organizations that work with it should all adopt G.722 as the standard way it conducts broadband voice communications by some date certain, starting with conference calls and working all the way down to individual departments and offices. Simply switching to VoIP provides a base for other apps, but HD Communications provides an uplift in quality that should improve communications between government agencies, and ultimately between other nations; after all, the French, British, Germans, and Italians are all implementing HD voice in the form of G.722.
The White House should be the first organization to go “All G,” providing a suitable example and incentive for other agencies to make the move up to HD Voice. It’ll make a good complement to go with the secure BlackBerry.
The FCC is the point agency for a creating and implementing a national broadband policy, so Julius Genachowski and the FCC’s broadband’s main man, Blair Levin, can incorporate and trumpet the use of HD voice and G.722 in the creation of said policy. The FCC may have to provide some suggestion/clue/encouragement by service providers to interoperate, but hopefully such mechanisms/suggestions will be relatively loose and not require a Big Club or a complex settlements formula.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman nominee Julius Genachowski got the typical Capital Hill posturing lectures today at his confirmation hearing, but appears to be on track to be confirmed with Senate Commerce Committee leadership homing for a confirmation vote before July 4.
Democratic Senators seemed to be more on point to delivery lectures more appropriate for former Chairman Kevin Martin. “”Fix the agency or we will fix it for you,” said Senator John Rockefeller ( D-W.Va.), “Prove to us that the FCC is not battered beyond repair.” Senator Bryon Dorgan (D-N.D.) also chimed in with “It seems to me that you will lead a rather unhealthy agency. We’ve been through a period of substantial secrecy.”
For his part, Genachowski stuck to happy script sound bites, such as telling Rockefeller “The FCC should be a model for transparency, openness and fairness” and saying he would bring “common sense” to government rule-making and that the FCC can serve as a model for “excellence in government” through “open, fair and data-driven processes.” (The ghost of Kevin Martin wasn’t known for open processes).
Robert McDowell also appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday for his confirmation hearing. McDowell is the Republican “bundled” into this set of hearings and is up for his second term as a FCC Commissioner. McDowell is known as a free-market guy, but has demonstrated a more collegial approach to working out issues than Martin.
Last week, Blair Levin officially returned to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “help coordinate its development of a national broadband plan,” saith acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps. But let’s be honest, Blair probably already had a reserved parking space over there given his involvement in the Obama transition team on tech policy, working hand-in-hand with FCC Chairman-in-waiting Julius Genachowski. What might this mean — if anything — for HD Communications and Jeff Pulver’s plan to submit a petition this fall for upgrading phone call voice quality in the United States?
Levin is no stranger to the FCC. He was chief of staff for former FCC chairman Reed Hundt between 1993 and 1997 and got the nickname the “the sixth chairman” during the days of rewriting and implementing telecom policy.
More recently, Levin was one of the two strongest names for a potential nominee as FCC Chairman and the favorite of the telecom policy wonk set. My personal opinion is that Genachowski probably is a better basketball player — Levin being partial to baseball — and got the nod to be nominated for chairman.
Even after Genachowski became the leaked/obvious favorite as Obama’s FCC Chairman, Levin kept on popping up in public places talking about national broadband policy.
In January, Levin appeared at the “”State of the Net” Conference event organized by the advisory committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus to spell out how broadband involvement would play out in the economic stimulus package and how broadband stimulus would work moving forward. He explained that what would happen in the an economy recovery package was something that was designed to be timely, targeted and temporary to create jobs, using existing bureaucratic mechanisms to distribute funding. More innovative programs would have to wait.
Since Levin is now point man for the development of a national broadband plan, it is likely we will see some “innovation” on the table as he builds a comprehensive national broadband policy — and I suspect, despite the worrying over at GigaOm, intelligent people have been working on the problem before announcement have been made.
Does innovation mean raising the bar for phone call quality beyond 1937-era technology?
It is an interesting question. Levin is a free market guy at heart, but I suspect he’d also like to raise the bar if it falls into line with delivering faster broadband to more underserved and unserved communities.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell has been nominated for a second term by President Barak Obama. Now maybe the Republicans can stop stalling and start voting to approve him and FCC Chairman nominee Julius Genachowski already.
According to reports floating around since Genachowski was nominated, the Republican leadership and/or Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) didn’t want to vote on Genachowski and other FCC Democratic nominees until they had “pairs” of Republicans to approve at the same time. Trouble was the Republicans either couldn’t agree or weren’t ready to nominate their own people, so the process of approving Genachowski has been stalled.
Now it appears Genachowski will get his day on Capital Hill later this month, along with McDowell. A second pairs hearing of Democratic nominee Migon Clyburn and former NTIA head Meredith Baker is expected further down the road and should prove to be interesting given Clyburn’s relative inexperience with spectrum issues and Baker’s involvement with the DTV coupon box program and its associated delays.
McDowell, a Republican and Bush-era appointed commissioner, was first confirmed by the Senate in June 2006 and had been the senior VP and assistant general counsel for COMPTEL and had represented competitors to AT&T, so he recused himself from voting on the AT&T/Bell South merger before the commission.
When FCC Commissioners were deadlocked 2-2 in December 2006 to approve the merger, Martin asked McDowell to vote to break the tie and the FCC General Counsel issued a memo saying the government’s “significant interest” in the merger outweighed the appearance of a personal conflict. Once again, McDowell disqualified himself from participating.
Two week later, AT&T, Bell South and the FCC worked out terms and the FCC voted to approve the merger 4-0 on December 29, 2006. McDowell stood his ground and stuck to his principles. Don’t find that often in Washington D.C. Unsurprisingly, AT&T reportedly wasn’t in favor of McDowell getting a second term; be interesting to hear the off-the-record story on why McDowell got the thumbs up all of a sudden.
An interview I did with McDowell for (the original) VON Magazine in April 2007 is still available on line.