Ajit Pai asks Netflix what gives on net neutrality

Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai yesterday wrote a letter asking Netflix to explain why it is not participating in the development of open standards for video streaming and why, according to press reports, the largest generator of online traffic in North America is using its own proprietary software to cache its traffic.

Mr. Pai is curious about the reports that Netflix may be charting its own course for delivering video services including the development of of fast lanes for its own traffic, all while advocating for equal treatment by internet service providers of content provider traffic.

Open standards, as defined in a paper by Ken Krechner, represent common agreements that enable communications.  Open standards help provide interoperabilty on the internet and maximize access to resources.  I guess what drives Mr. Pai’s curiosity is if the concept of net neutrality is based on transparency of management practices and the equal treatment of data, why would Netflix want o use proprietary caching technology to speed up the transmission of its video services at the cost of competition with other content providers?

Mr. Pai has asked Netflix to respond to his letter by 16 December 2014.


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Tier-2 carriers are 21st century re-sellers on steroids

Today the Federal Communications Commission released an order on interoperability in the lower 700mMHz band where smaller competitive wireless carriers can roam on AT&T’s wireless network. I look at the order as a quasi private-public partnership where the FCC met the industry half-way by reworking its power emission rules in the 700 MHz block while AT&T voluntarily agreed to let smaller carriers roam on its network.

The most apparent winner here is the consumer. The ability to enjoy a seamless call experience increases consumer welfare by providing the consumer with additional choice in carriers. Why leave Sprint if that carrier can provide true nationwide calling by leverage its ability to roam on another network.

That to me is the downside of the FCC’s push to increase the roaming capabilities of the smaller carriers. To me all we have here is a reseller agreement on 21st century steroids. Today’s order says that rather than pursue go old fashioned capital formation and leverage it into your own facilities-based networks, just do a B-52’s impersonation and “roam if you want to.”

AT&T’s cost-benefit analysis probably led the company to the conclusion that we’ll pick up a little roaming revenue, but with the tweak in the emissions rules, we’ll be okay. I think in the long run it sends the wrong message that rather than go into the markets and buy cheap money, just make some noise with the regulators.

Steve Berry, president and chief executive officer of The Competitive Carriers Association, recently opined on CSPAN-2’s The Communicators that consolidation was decimating the Tier-2 wireless carriers. Well expect the decimation to continue not primarily because of mergers and acquisitions, but because all these smaller carriers end up being are sources of customer lists because without the expanded facilities-based networks that’s the only value that they will be able to boast about.

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Do I sense anti-trust promotion from smaller wireless carriers?

I just finished tuning into The Communicators on CSPAN-2. The guest was Steven Berry, president and chief executive officer of the Competitive Carriers Association. They represent a bunch of wireless carriers from T-Mobile and Sprint on down. Mr. Berry managed to give interim Federal Communications Commission chairman Mignon Clyburn some love this evening for her ability to move AT&T towards voluntarily allowing smaller carrier devices to inter-operate on the larger carrier’s network.

Mr. Berry addressed what he saw as the disadvantages of smaller carriers not being able to transmit a national footprint without the ability of their devices operating on a larger carrier’s network and touted Ms. Clyburn pro-consumer proclivities as helping bringing AT&T around in the 700 MHz band and hoped that the FCC would be able to help bring about the same results in 600 MHz band.

If you are a Run-DMC fan, think of the line from the “King of Rock” where the rap duo boasts that they and their music can knock down ceilings and walls. That’s why the 600 MHz and 700 MHz portions of the airwaves are preferably where cell phone companies would like to transmit their phone signals. Phone signals can travel long distances on these frequencies, which is ideal for rural wireless communications. Signals traveling on these airwaves can penetrate walls which is advantageous to urban communications where someone may be making a phone call from the basement.

What got my ears up was Mr. Berry’s discussion on consolidation in the wireless market. Mr. Berry expressed his concern that Tier 2 carriers were riding off into the sunset, pointing out that at least five Tier-2 carriers had gone the way of the Dodo bird over the last twelve months. Mr. Berry asked how far consolidation should go. His question sounded like an invitation for more anti-trust action on the part of the federal government, especially given his belief that Ms. Clyburn and perceived new chairman Tom Wheeler have consumer interests at heart. That’s a red flag for government action that promotes competition. We heard those words before two years ago when the U.S. Department of Justice sued to stop the acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T.

Is anti-trust law designed to promote competition while protecting consumers or is it designed to keep a couple competitors at bay while leveling the technology playing field for everyone else? Again, Mr. Berry appeared to be hinting so considering the question may be premature.

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Pai statement on FCC procedures for H Block auction

Posted September 13th, 2013 in 4G, Broadband, Federal Communications Commission, interoperability, spectrum, spectrum auction and tagged , , by Alton Drew

The following was released today by Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai:

“This summer, I proposed that the H-block auction start on January 14, 2014, and I applaud Chairwoman Clyburn and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau for today’s Public Notice announcing that the auction will commence on that date. Bringing this valuable 10 MHz of paired spectrum into the commercial marketplace as soon as possible will benefit Americans in two ways.

First, it will help deliver bandwidth-intensive mobile services and applications.

Second, the proceeds of the auction will provide much-needed revenue for the First Responder Network Authority to build out a nationwide, interoperable broadband public safety network. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure a successful auction four months hence.”

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AT&T: And speaking of the inter-operability in the 700 MHz band

Posted September 10th, 2013 in AT&T, Broadband, digital divide, Federal Communications Commission, interoperability and tagged , , by Alton Drew

The following may be attributed to Joan Marsh, AT&T Vice President-Federal Regulatory:

“Today, AT&T agreed to take definitive and concrete steps to bring interoperability to the lower 700 MHz band. Challenges in the lower 700 MHz band have left the 700 MHz A Block vulnerable to interference and largely undeployed. Now, under the leadership of Chairwoman Clyburn and her Staff, an industry consensus has emerged that offers a path to achieving interoperability in the band.

“AT&T, for its part, has committed to investing considerable time and resources to the modification of its 700 MHz LTE network through the implementation of a newly-standardized software feature. That effort will allow AT&T’s network to support Band 12 capable devices. AT&T has also committed to working collaboratively with its chipset partners and OEMs to introduce, within a reasonable time frame, new Band 12 capable devices into its device portfolio. AT&T’s commitments are spelled out in detail in a letter filed today with the FCC.

“These commitments, along with actions the FCC intends to take to harmonize the service rules for the 700 MHz E Block to address interference concerns, will put the industry on a path to increased investment and deployment opportunities in the 700 MHz A Block. Chairwoman Clyburn should be congratulated for this significant achievement that will benefit the wireless industry and US consumers alike.”