AT&T buckles to Neuts – sort of

This just in from the Wall St. Journal: AT&T Offers New Concessions In BellSouth Deal

WASHINGTON — AT&T Inc. has offered a new set of concessions that are expected to satisfy the two Democrats on the Federal Communications Commission and lead to approval of the company’s $85 billion buyout of BellSouth Corp.

Approval by the full commission could happen as soon as Friday.

AT&T filed a letter of commitment with the agency Thursday night that adds a number of new conditions to the deal, including a promise to observe “network neutrality” principles, an offer of affordable stand-alone digital subscriber line service and divestment of some wireless spectrum.

The net neutrality concessions are:

1 . Effective on the Merger Closing Date, and continuing for 30 months thereafter, AT&T/BellSouth will conduct business in a manner that comports with the principles set forth in the Commission’s Policy Statement, issued September 23, 2005 (FCC 05-151).

2. AT&T/BellSouth also commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service. 15 This’ commitment shall be satisfied by AT&T/BellSouth’s agreement not to provide or to sell to Internet content, application, or service providers, including those affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth’s wireline broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination.

This commitment shall apply to AT&T/BellSouth’s wireline broadband Internet access service from the network side of the customer premise equipment up to and including the Internet Exchange Point closest to the customer’s premise, defined as the point of interconnection that is logically, temporally or physically closest to the customer’s premise where public or private Internet backbone networks freely exchange Internet packets.

This commitment does not apply to AT&T/BellSouth’s enterprise managed IP services, defined as services available only to enterprise customers 16 that are separate services from, and can be purchased without, AT&T/BellSouth’s wireline broadband Internet access service, including, but not limited to, virtual private network (VPN) services provided to enterprise customers. This commitment also does not apply to AT&T/BellSouth’s Internet Protocol television (IPTV) service. These exclusions shall not result in the privileging, degradation, or prioritization of packets transmitted or received by AT&T/BellSouth’s non-enterprise customers’ wireline broadband Internet access service from the network side of the customer premise equipment up to and including the Internet Exchange Point closest to the customer’s premise, as defined above.

This commitment shall sunset on the earlier of (1) two years from the Merger Closing Date, or (2) the effective date of any legislation enacted by Congress subsequent to the Merger Closing Date that substantially addresses “network neutrality” obligations of broadband Internet access providers, including, but not limited to, any legislation that substantially addresses the privileging, degradation, or prioritization of broadband Internet access traffic.

Thus, the neuts have extracted most of what they wanted from the FCC after Congress told them to go take a hike, which is not exactly a victory for the Democratic Process. It simply means that two ignorant commissioners – Copps and Adelstein – were able to subvert the will of the people.

But the larger question is whether this is a victory for the Internet or even a victory for Google and the other moneybags who funded the net neutrality movement and stood to make the greatest gains from it. On one hand, Google loses from this agreement because AT&T retains the right to prioritize its IPTV service, the main juicy plum that Google wanted to cannibalize. But Google wins because it’s still able to out-perform other web sites by caching content in its various massive server farms, a permanent advantage that the carriers can’t counteract with higher-quality transport services.

And there’s nothing in this about censorship of political speech, but we all knew that was bullshit form the get-go.

In the meantime, Internet service in Asia remains severely degraded by the loss of a fiber-optic tube from Taiwan to an earthquake, and Google isn’t volunteering to help restore it or to invest in the two new tubes the carriers are going to lay for a billion dollars.

Isn’t democracy wonderful?

UPDATE: The deal is done.

UPDATE 2: Predictably, neuts are whining. See Techdirt, Isenberg, Evslin, Crawford for the ongoing litany about the dearth of free candy in the world. My heart bleeds.

This entry was posted in Net Neutrality. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to AT&T buckles to Neuts – sort of

  1. directorblue says:

    Excellent news. Amazing how AT&T finally figured out how to define ‘net neutrality’ when the screws tightened.

    More good news — for those who value the greatest Democratic communication platform in history (i.e., a net-neutral Internet) — yet to come.

    Doug

  2. MnZ says:

    Interestingly, the agreement still appears to allow AT&T to charge customers for QoS. I don’t know if this would stop AT&T from charging for a VoIP prioritization fee.

    Doug, how exactly does this benefit “Democratic” communication?

  3. directorblue says:

    The benefit is as follows: Cisco’s Service Exchange Framework (SEF) seems to me to be expressly designed to allow carriers to block, impede or otherwise filter “third-party” services. And SEF also appears to be the kind of stuff the carriers were planning on purchasing in order to eradicate net neutrality.

    The most ominous aspects of their plans were not to charge, say, Yahoo a premium to get better performance than Google. An even more diabolical scheme appeared to be the carriers creating their own services – search-engines, YouTube-style video-delivery, etc. and then impeding all competitors to ensure that their service “won”. Shockingly, there were some allusions to this sort of anti-competitive tactic by various execs…

    Suffice it to say that with one or two FTTH providers per locale, the result was going to be to turn the Internet into Cable Television. Not exactly what we would have wanted, right?

    Doug

  4. MnZ says:

    Doug, why do you feel it necessary to use such a highly charged language(e.g., “eradicate,” “ominous aspects,” “diabolical scheme,” “Shockingly”)? If you feel that you need to resort such a tone to make your point, maybe your point isn’t as strong as you original thought.

    Regarding your specific assertions:

    Cisco’s Service Exchange Framework (SEF) seems to me to be expressly designed to allow carriers to block, impede or otherwise filter “third-party” services. And SEF also appears to be the kind of stuff the carriers were planning on purchasing in order to eradicate net neutrality.

    Whether you like it or not, the Service Exchange Framework (or something like it) will be used by carriers. This is not because of any diabolic intent. Rather, it will be used because it will allow carriers more efficiently provide customers the service that they demand.

    An even more diabolical scheme appeared to be the carriers creating their own services – search-engines, YouTube-style video-delivery, etc. and then impeding all competitors to ensure that their service “won”.

    YouTube-style video delivery systems will be incapable of delivery HD content for a long, long time. Why? Because even a highly compressed HDTV stream can take 20+ Mbps (assuming 1080 resolution). A small city with 50,000 HDTVs would need a 1+ terabit connection to the Internet to supply streaming content. Current technology does not support pipes that big.

    Suffice it to say that with one or two FTTH providers per locale, the result was going to be to turn the Internet into Cable Television. Not exactly what we would have wanted, right?

    Did you even notice the consent agreement exempted IPTV?

  5. Mike Nelson says:

    One of your ‘net neuts’ has done this at
    http: //scrawford.blogware. com/blog/ _archives/2006/12/ 29/2604993.html

    “access from http://www.bennett.com/blog/ has been denied”

    Seems hypocritical to me.

    Before I go any further, I will disclose that I am an independent contractor working as a software engineer, and one of my clients is 2Wire, which builds the customer premises boxes that many claim will be used to ‘unfairly’ prioritize services offered by AT&T.

    First, in the best case we are talking about VDSL2 here, which has a 30 MHz total spectrum and can theoretically provide 250 Mbits of digital bandwidth. ‘Theoretically’ means across a lab bench, not up to a quarter mile from the nearest AT&T green cabinet in your neighborhood. In practice, it will be much less than that, depending on distance and wireline quality. In the real world VDSL2 will not be available in most areas, so many subscribers will be stuck with a 3 to 6 Mbit ADSL connection.

    There is no way that AT&T can deliver the ‘tri-media’ or ‘triple-play’ of IP telephony, IPTV, and video-heavy internet access on an ADSL connection without ‘unfairly’ prioritizing the higher bandwidth services that its customers are paying good money to receive.

    Personally, I use my local monopolistic cable company for my ‘triple-play’ service, so I can get true low-latency high-bandwidth HDTV and IP telephony that doesn’t break up. I don’t try to connect third-party IP telephony devices to my internet connection because I’m happy to pay for high-quality IP telephony that my cable company will provide through the magic of that nasty unfairly discriminatory non-neutral internet of theirs. I get much higher bandwidth on my internet connection than I could ever hope to get from AT&T now or in the forseeable future.

    However, if my cable company tried to slow down my Google access to make it unusable, you can bet that I will dump their service in a New York minute and running screaming and crying back into the tender embrace of Good Old Ma Bell. The service would suck, but at least I could save some money.

  6. max says:

    The benefit is as follows: Cisco’s Service Exchange Framework (SEF) seems to me to be expressly designed to allow carriers to block, impede or otherwise filter “third-party” services. And SEF also appears to be the kind of stuff the carriers were planning on purchasing in order to eradicate net neutrality.

    SEF (if these Cisco koolaid boxes actually work) is primarily used to ensure the aggregate enjoyment of the Internet by all subscribers in an ADSL2+ world.

    Say your fed off a remote DSLAM (fed by 8 T1s) bolted to a telephone pole somewhere… Are you sure you want your enjoyable Youtube/Pr0n or whatever getting jittery because your neighbors are downloading warez with bittorent?

    Or more easily throttling a customer who may be blasting spam to your email account…

    Or any other actual and far more common problems that exist RIGHT NOW in the real world of network operations.

Comments are closed.