AT&T Statement on FCC Chairman's Brookings Institute Speech

Dallas, Texas, September 21, 2009


“We commend Chairman Genachowski for his speech today, which begins a public process of considering very important issues that will affect the Internet, and broadband investment, for many years to come.

“AT&T has long supported the principle of an open Internet and has conducted its business accordingly. We were also early supporters of the FCC’s current four broadband principles and their case-by-case application to wired networks. To the extent that the chairman seeks to bolster the FCC’s legal authority to enforce these principles, we would support him. We have also indicated publicly that, despite any compelling evidence of abuses that need correction, AT&T could also consider endorsing a fifth principle relating to actions that are unreasonably discriminatory and that cause material harm. Finally, we have never had concerns with disclosure or transparency regarding network management decisions so long as such requirements are reasonable.

“We are concerned, however, that the FCC appears ready to extend the entire array of net neutrality requirements to what is perhaps the most competitive consumer market in America, wireless services. Today, American consumers enjoy the broadest array of innovative services and devices, the highest usage levels, the lowest prices, and the most competitive choices of any wireless market in the world. The evidence of intense competition in the wireless market is overwhelming—there are 10 carriers with 4 million or more customers, and 5 with 10 million or more. Opening one’s daily newspaper is an exercise in competing wireless offers. We have applauded this FCC for emphasizing that its regulatory decisions would be data-driven. We would thus be very disappointed if it has already drawn a conclusion to regulate wireless services despite the absence of any compelling evidence of problems or abuse that would warrant government intervention.

“To paraphrase a recent analyst comment, net neutrality is rooted in an assumption that broadband networks are instantly expandable, to an infinite extent, at little or no cost. To base policy assumptions on such fallacies is to conduct a risky experiment with American broadband investment, nearly all of which is private investment on which our nation depends. This is especially so with U.S. wireless networks, which are facing incredible bandwidth strains, and which require continued private investment at very high levels, and pro-active network management, to ensure service quality for 270 million customers.

“In addition, to apply net neutrality requirements to wireless only a year after completing the 700 MHz auction, and only months after delivering licenses to winning bidders, is to raise questions as to why such policies were not implemented in advance of the auction. Indeed, only the C Block was encumbered with requirements of the sort suggested in today’s speech; the other spectrum was auctioned with specific assurances that it was not encumbered with such regulations. As a result, that unencumbered spectrum was sold for many billions more than the C Block. For the FCC to now place such requirements on that spectrum so soon after the auction creates the impression of a ‘bait and switch’, and could raise questions about the fairness and integrity of the auction process itself.

“We are encouraged that in his speech, Chairman Genachowski pledged an open and fact-driven process would be followed before the FCC draws any final conclusions on these important questions. We welcome his opening this discussion today with a candid explanation of his purposes and concerns, and look forward to working with him and the other commissioners in a constructive way.”