The future of telecommunications in the U.S. is being played out on the sandy beaches of Fire Island, NY. Forget about not being upgraded to fiber optic services. Customers are “extremely disappointed,” “horrified,” “very frustrated,” with “grave distress and dissatisfaction” about Verizon’s plan to stop fixing their phone lines and…
However, the ALEC model legislation was created by AT&T; the fact that AT&T filed a petition with the FCC to finish the ALEC state-based campaign at the federal level should come as no surprise.
In December 2009, AT&T filed comments with the FCC as part of National Broadband Plan titled “The Transition from the Legacy Circuit-Switched Network to Broadband” which laid out, in detail, the AT&T-ALEC model of the future — remove as much regulations and obligations as possible.
In 2009, AT&T et al got the FCC to create a group within the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council (TAC) to start the process of “sunsetting” — i.e., closing down America’s utility networks — the Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN). As we discussed, TAC is as model of regulatory capture. AT&T and Verizon, (two of the largest incumbent phone companies who control the PSTN in their states) are not only on the committee but the majority of the TAC members have direct financial ties to either AT&T or Verizon or both.
Moreover, the TAC has been headed by Tom Wheeler, who is the Obama nominee for the new chairman of the FCC, replacing Julius Genachowski — and was former head of the cable association, the NCTA, and the wireless association, CTIA.
In August 2012, AT&T set the stage with a letter to FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, outlining the ALEC principles.
- Part 1: AT&T et al and ALEC created state-based model communications legislation which was used in many states to remove regulation and oversight.
- Part 2: ALEC state-based laws end up as principles in AT&T’s petition to the FCC to close down America’s utility networks.
NRRI Report, May 2013
“Twenty-five states had passed legislation eliminating or reducing state commission authority over telecommunications by the end of the 2012 legislative sessions. By the end of 2013, this number could increase significantly, given the legislation pending in states across the country. Legislation reducing regulatory oversight (or clarifying the deregulation initiatives passed earlier) was proposed in 20 states during the 2013 legislative session… Should the majority of the legislation pending in the 2013 sessions be enacted, nearly 70% of the states will have significantly reduced or eliminated commission jurisdiction over retail telecommunications services.”
Let’s connect the dots.
Starting in 2007, AT&T, Verizon, Centurylink and the cable companies, working with a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), created state-based model legislation and principles designed by the companies to accomplish one thing — the removal of all regulations, obligations and oversight on the companies’ businesses. As the NRRI report outlines, 25 states have removed some, if not all regulations and oversight, and there are more to come in 2013.
We note that Sprint/Nextel left ALEC in 2012.
AT&T, with the help of Verizon and the cable companies have ‘captured’ the FCC — and have been able to get the federal agency to create and shape a working group designed specifically to remove all regulations and obligations, close down the Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) and create new digital dead zones.
Think of this as — Imagine taking a company to court and you find out that the judge, most of the jury, and even your lawyer has a direct financial tie to the company you are suing… Think you’ll win?
Moreover, AT&T’s FCC play is part of a massive, well choreographed, multi-year state and federal campaign being orchestrated with ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to remove all regulations and obligations and harm America’s communications users — i.e., you, dear reader…
With the Wall Street Journal reporting a changing of the guard at the FCC, with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell leaving in the next few months, we need new people who are going to fix, expose and stand up to the corporations, not kowtow to them.
Regulatory Capture & Financial Conflicts of Interest vs Open Government.
What do Free State Foundation, TechNet, Tech America, the National Grange, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Women Involved in Farm Economics, the Urban League and Al Sharpton have in common?
They are all backing AT&T’s FCC Petition, which has the goal to close down telecommunications networks and create digital dead zones in about 50 percent of the country. Most disturbing, many of the endorsements of AT&T contradict the needs of their own constituents.
Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the Georgia Legislature are pushing a bill to thwart locally-owned internet in underserved communities, an industry-sponsored effort that effectively reinforces the digital divide. A vote in the Georgia Assembly is scheduled for Thursday, March 7; if Georgia passes the bill it would be the twentieth state to eliminate community control over internet access.
Rural and Poor Communities Take Control of Internet
As many as one in ten Americans cannot get internet connections that are fast enough for basic activities like streaming video or file sharing, largely because big internet providers like AT&T and Time Warner Cable have refused to provide adequate service to communities where the population is too dispersed or too poor. As local economies become ever more dependent on internet access, though, this digital divide is leaving rural and low-income communities in the dust.
EDITORS NOTE: There are two primary campaigns being run by ALEC et al. The first is to block municipalities from upgrading their networks and offering services— 19 states already have changed their laws to block munis.
The second — close down all regulations on the wires — 23 states have already passed laws to do some if not remove all regulations.
Last year, we reported on the failed SB 135, which would have eliminated the “carrier of last resort” requirement in the state. The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Paul Hornback would have let AT&T decide who could receive basic telephone service and would have limited consumer protections.
Last year’s bill did not become law, but a progeny, SB 88, has already passed in the Kentucky Senate and was received in the House on February 15th. (We’d like to report what committee will hear it first but the Kentucky Legislative web has not yet published that information.) Senator Hornback is again the chief author of the bill, crafted by AT&T and its ALEC pals.
I just made a rather disturbing finding. AT&T’s U-verse service — its broadband, internet and TV service — is a copper-to-the-home service. More importantly, it is a fiber-to-the-press-release. Going though hundreds of blogs and articles as well as AT&T’s state and federal testimony and filings — including AT&T’s recent FCC petition to close down the Public Switched Telephone Networks, (PSTN), AT&T never once mentioned that AT&T’s U-verse is a copper-based PSTN service. U-verse uses the same, exact wires that have been in homes and offices for decades, even though AT&T is claiming that the PSTN is “too old” and needs to be “retired,” closing down about 50 percent of their 22 state territories’ utility networks.
AT&T has also told anyone who will listen that the company needs to “transition” the PSTN networks to an “all Internet protocol network” to make “Voice Over the Internet Protocol” (VOIP) work.
- Susan Lerner, Executive Director, Common Cause, New York & Brendan Fischer, PRWatch,– Who is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and how do they impact public policy making?
- Bruce Kushnick, New Networks — Reversing ALEC-based communications laws and regulations. A brief history of Telecommunications, broadband and competition in the US and the current communications landscape.
- Earl Comstock — With talk of a rewrite of the Telecom Act, what needs to be done to reverse the current policies and restore competition.
- Jonathan Askin, Brooklyn Law, BLIP – VOIP and AT&T’s FCC Petition. Why access to the networks is critical to competition in information services.
- David Rosen – Content is King — From Net Neutrality to the ISP as policeman, content, including user-generated content is an issue that won’t go away.Esq.
Afternoon: (to be sent)
- Joe Plotkin, ASA networks –Competition on all levels is an imperative.
- Joly Mac Fie, ISOC-NY — Net Neutrality principles should reflect competition of Internet, broadband and phone service as well as
- Bill Skye, Esq. — New Jersey’s rural customer are not being served. Verizon, New Jersey was to be completed by 2010 with 100% of the state’s utility being upgraded. to fiber optics, with speeds capable of 45 Mbps. in both directions.
- Edyael Casaperalta, Center for Rural Strategies, Broadband in rural areas is not happening causing economic harms to cities and customers.
- Art Brodsky,How the game is played.
- Dana Spiegel, NYC Wireless.
The Gigabit Nation site hosted a panel of community broadband experts and advocates to dissect FCC Chairman Genachowski’s recent Gigabit City Challenge. We want to make people hip to the fact that there needs to be a lot of hard work and some serious policy changes, not to mention the fact that the U.S. has the potential to do better than just one gigabit city per state.