Yesterday I wrote about ensuring net neutrality and just to show you how fluid the telecom market is, today AT&T may have ensured net neutrality for all of us last night. Well at least for 24 months. The company made a number of concessions to the FCC in order to complete their merger with BellSouth. Some of the concessions have to do with freezing prices on enterprise broadband services and giving up wireless spectrum. Other concessions are more important – selling high-speed internet service without the need to buy phone service. This is often called naked DSL.
AT&T has also agreed to provide net neutrality for a period of two years. Congress may weigh in on this issue before that time period expires however.
The interesting thing is that Comptel is an association devoted to fighting LECs for the benefit of CLECs. Unfortunately During the last few years this has been a losing battle as the FCC has more or less repealed the telecom act of 1996 which was meant to ensure CLECs could compete in the first place.
Many people have questioned the need for Comptel as they just haven’t been able to fight the RBOCs in a meaningful way. Their intentions are fantastic but the RBOCs present such a massive lobbying force, it is virtually impossible to stop them. In addition with AT&T’s lobbyists now working for the RBOCs in the old-new Ma Bell, Comptel has an even more formidable opponent.
The latest FCC commissioner, Robert McDowell most recently represented Comptel as an attorney. He decided not to vote on this merger because of his conflict of interest relating to his Comptel days. He realized that without his vote the commission would be deadlocked. So by recusing himself, McDowell all but ensured AT&T had to promise net neutrality to get this deal done.
If you remember, Ed Whitacre, now CEO of AT&T said two Halloweens ago that the pipes are his and he has the right to charge people for the pipes.
Now because of Comptel and McDowell doing what is best for consumers, the average US citizen has won out and VoIP and video companies are now in the position to compete effectively without the fear of getting wiped out by AT&T who could have imposed toll charges on their pipes.
Russell Shaw’s take.