DOJ Telco Antitrust News

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DOJ Telco Antitrust News

You may have heard the DOJ is looking into whether AT&T and Verizon have abused their market power. At this point I will hold off from commenting too forcefully but I will mention the countless horror stories I have heard from competitive carriers over the years regarding underhanded practices by the incumbents which "accidentally" disconnected their customers, etc. In a way you have to applaud the telcos for finding ways to reemerge as dominant players by consolidating beyond belief. It has been incredible to watch.

While the cable companies have given the telcos a run for their money, the emerging importance of wireless devices and the networks which support such users makes it apparent that internet can no longer be defined as something you use in your living room. Now, it is something you use wherever you are and as such the telcos are wielding incredible power in a crucial market segment.

To combat this threat, Cablevision has rolled out WiFi in its service areas but the coverage is not as ubiquitous as what AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless offer. It is certainly better than nothing and will improve but the telcos are in an amazing position.

One thing I would like to see done by government agencies is an audit of the patents these companies hold. I would like to see if patents applied for and granted by telcos while they received preferential government treatment have been used to thwart competition.

For example are lawsuits against Vonage or SIP trunking providers serving the public in some way or are they yet another way for there to be unfair competition in a market outside the immediate view of government regulators.

In addition, while I applaud AT&T for allowing Apple to sell the iPhone in Apple stores and I further salute them for handing over so much control to the Cupertino company, is it accurate to the say AT&T provides wireless broadband on the iPhone if they cripple VoIP connections? After spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars for iPhones and service from AT&T should consumers not be able to decide what apps they run?

As a consumer you have no recourse if you want to run VoIP over 3G on an iPhone. Something doesn't seem right about all this.

I will certainly keep you posted as details emerge but in the mean time check out the excellent thoughts on the matter from Harold Feld.

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