AT&T Stockpiling More 700 MHz Spectrum Threatens Interoperability

AT&T Mobility since its T-Mobile merger was shot down is attempting smaller spectrum acquisition deals like the one they had with Qualcomm that was approved. Despite AT&T losing some AWS spectrum to T-Mobile as part of the breakup agreement they gained some licenses to 700 MHz airwaves from Qualcomm and now want more from 700 MHz LLC even if threatens any future hope of 4G LTE Interoperability (700 MHz Interoperability 12-69). To submit non-docketed comments/pleadings or confidential pleadings to the FCC regarding this application groups or individuals participating must have registered with the FCC to participate in Universal Licensing System proceedings. Once logged in a pleading for ULS File Number 0005262760 which is the file number associated with this application can be submitted. Petitions to Deny this application are due by July 25th, 2012 with Oppositions due August 6th, 2012 and Replies due August 13th, 2012. I have already participated in this proceeding myself submitting my concerns stating why the deal should either be conditionally approved or denied. As it is much smaller than AT&T T-Mobile merger and is purely a spectrum swap there are less competitive concerns than there were for that proposed merger but some concerns do exist that need addressing.

As noted above the transaction(s) at issue here could further derail or threaten any future hope for 4G LTE device carrier interoperability among carriers offering 4G LTE services and as such the FCC should carefully review and evaluate all the evidence submitted for or against the transaction(s) at issue here. The FCC as I will explain in an upcoming article should implement and enforce 700 MHz interoperability rules which will benefit smaller carriers and foster greater competition. This is because the Big 2 carriers AT&T and Verizon have benefited from a non interoperable wireless market even making devices on their own networks incompatible with each other’s network. So not only are devices on AT&T’s network incompatible with those pof smaller carriers including Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, MetroPCS, Leap Wireless (Cricket), U.S. Cellular, C-Spire (Cellular South) etc but devices on AT&T’s network are also incompatible with those on Verizon’s network and vice versa.

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Why Internet Companies Should Oppose AT&T T Mobil Merger

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Internet companies especially those rightly supporting Net Neutrality should worry about the potential of the job killing, competition and consumer choice reducing AT&T T Mobil merger. The merger which would likely result in higher prices would also give AT&T more market power and increased incentive to discriminate against innovators and users online. Nonetheless some technology companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, and Yahoo have unfortunately chosen to support the merger. Whether or not they are aware of the risks to the wireless market and chose to ignore them or naively chose to believe AT&T’s empty promises that if it wins approval for the deal it will expand mobile broadbnd access is unclear.  One thing is certain though one web company Google is strangely silent on the issue of this merger.

Google which has been a longtime supporter of Network Neutrality at least up until last year when it reached a controversial deal with Verizon Wireless on a Network Neutrality framework exempting nondiscrimination requirements from wireless services has been silent on this telecommunications merger. Last year when they announced their pact with Verizon Wireless they were criticized by Facebook and a number of public interest groups and pro Net Neutrality activists.

On the issue of Microsoft’s support for the merger remember this is the same company taken to court by antitrust regulators in the US Department of Justice for trying to illegally monopolize the market for web browsing software. So Microsoft’s no champion of the Open Internet and their past history proves such. However, for Google a previous supporter of openness and nondiscrimination to have made that pact with Verizon Wireless was really outrageous. What’s more outrageous is their silence on the issue of the AT&T T Mobil and Qualcomm mergers as well as Facebook’s support of the merger.

Thirty First Blog Entry Mon Sept 5

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The iPad as noted is just another TV screen now for consuming, accessing and viewing content. Therefore providers should not have to pay more in carriage fees to greedy programmers to stream TV programs to such devices using apps like Time Warner Cable’s TV app for iPad. Even though these apps use the TV Everywhere authentication scheme I support the providers right to offer these apps to consumers without having to pay additional charges to programmers for doing so. Let us make it clear to greedy programmers we do not share their views that it is okay for them to double dip and demand carriage fees be paid twice. Once for providers to enable customers to view channels on their TV and a second time so viewers can access the content on tablet computers like the iPad.

My next post will discuss Time Warner Cable’s web campaign in defense of their iPad app for streaming live TV. It may also discuss their web campaign to fight higher broadcast retransmission fees. Afterward will provide a post detailing alternative applications and services you can use even if you lose channels because of a broadcast retransmission fight by your provider and a programmer to still access such programing.

Thirtieth Blog Entry Mon Sept 5

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Having written about how broadcast retransmission fees and bundling drive up the cost of video programming for subscribers of cable TV or satellite and how cord cutting to get cheaper or free a la carte video programming online is convenient for some users I thought I’d reflect on another instance of programmers being greedy. Some programmers think providers should have to pay more in carriage fees to offer live web streaming of their TV channels to tablets like the iPad. Fortunately, some programmers are wise and reasonable enough to understand these tablets are just another screen consumers can use in their home to watch TV and aren’t as greedy as others. Nonetheless there are some greedy programmers and a fight has started between the greedy programmers and the providers over offering live web streaming of TV channels to iPads and other devices.

I for one am supporting the providers on this issue also but as noted am at odds with big cable companies and phone companies wanting to engage in ISP discrimination as I support rules to prevent them from doing so. I will continue the discussion of iPad streaming for the next few posts and then transition to a newer topic.

Twenty Eighth Blog Entry Mon Sept 5th

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In my last post I described the controversial issue of broadcast retransmission and how greedy programmers who require providers bundle channels thus preventing consumers from getting the few channels they want a la carte more cheaply keep driving up prices when contracts are up for renewal. I mentioned how even basic cable for cable customers has 70+ bundled channels.  Consider for a moment your cable or satellite TV bill and that even if you have a basic package the cost of the basic package might increase if the programmers who own channels in that basic package demand higher retransmission fees from your provider. That is even if you lack the top 100, top 200, or top 300 channels, a DVR and/or Video On Demand service your prices could still go up. This certainly would not seem fair for consumers and it is wrong for greedy programmers especially in an economy with high unemployment to try and gouge the providers and consumers for more money.

Nonetheless the programmers continue to do so each time contracts are up for renewal and providers have two options cave and raise prices on consumers to compensate for the higher fees they have to pay or fight and lose access to some channels their customers like. The only best case scenario is for them to reach a fair compromise that ensures the programmers are fairly compensated and providers don’t have to pay too many more fees that must be passed on to their customers.

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Twenty Seventh Blog Entry Mon Sept 5th

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Unfortunately programmers that is the broadcast and cable TV networks that own all the channels require providers who owns the pipes that carry/distribute their TV channels to bundle channels. Even in basic cable 70+ channels are bundled that you might not even want but still have to pay for. To make matters worse greedy programmers when broadcast retransmission contracts are up for renewal with satellite and/or digital cable TV providers pressure providers to accept higher retransmission carriage fees. As providers only get to keep a small portion of the revenues they earn as profit and must spend most of it to pay their employees, maintain and update infrastructure, and pay the providers these fee increases would have to unfairly be passed on to consumers. So providers often complain and try to fight back to hold down prices. They should certainly be commended for doing so but of course that does not excuse big cable companies that provide us with TV service from engaging in ISP discrimination online.

Nonetheless it is good of the providers to look out for their customers in these retransmission fights and it would be nice to see some government intervention sometimes in helping resolve these disputes and taking away power from programmers to outrageously jack up prices to prevent future disputes. Another posting will cover broadcast retransmission and place shifting issues in further detail.

 

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Sixteenth Blog Entry Sun Sept 4th

Previously, I have written extensively about the Justice Department’s decision to use its authority to mandate competition and protect free markets with antitrust law from monopolies to block AT&T’s T Mobil merger. Now I want to write a bit more though on Network Neutrality. Network Neutrality rules of nondiscrimination are essential to maintaining the free and open Internet as a level playing field for new startups to compete, innovate and succeed or fail on their merits. In an Open Internet small businesses can grow to become big businesses and don’t need permission to innovate. My next post will describe Network Neutrality in further detail.

Don’t let big cable and phone companies succeed in redefining Network Neutrality a government takeover of the Internet. It is an absurd and false argument to trick individuals into opposing what are in fact protections for the Open Web that prevent these corporations from discriminating against us online. As I said my next article will discuss this in more depth but for now just know that Network Neutrality are a set of nondiscrimination rules preventing unfair ISP discrimination. ISPs should not be able to exempt their own services from unnecessary and unfair bandwidth caps they place on user’s Internet connections to make using competing applications and services on the Web inconvenient. So please spread the word and prevent the telecommunications industry from distorting Network Neutrality.

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Fifteenth Blog Entry Sun Sept 4th

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The Justice Department’s historic decision to deny AT&T’s T Mobil merger for being anti competitive and news that the FCC might do the same finding that the deal is against the public interest despite heavy lobbying by Ma Bell to get government regulators to approve the transaction is great news for consumers and the wireless market. As I have stated before this is a big win for consumers and will continue to write about new developments as they occur hopeful the public interest will prevail. With any luck no more anti competitive and harmful mergers will be approved and these agencies might one day hopefully soon use competition mandates and antitrust law to breakup anti competitive firms in the wireless market. I will discuss Network Neutrality in more depth in an upcoming post.

So what happens now that Justice has denied AT&T’s merger with T Mobil. Well as I’ve stated before no doubt AT&T will fight the lawsuit Justice filed against them in court and try to woo Justice to reconsider its terrific decision for consumers and the wireless market. We will have to continue fighting to get this merger thrown out for good and ensure Justice’s decision is not over turned but for now as I’ve stated earlier we should celebrate this win for the public interest. Screw you AT&T we’ve refused to accept your lies of the merger enabling you to deliver users better service or the deal magically giving consumers more choice. Why don’t you just cancel your transaction with T Mobil USA and Qualcomm?

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Fourteenth Blog Entry Sun Sept 4th

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Unfortunately for AT&T the Justice Department in ruling against their T Mobil merger decided that the facts of the merger’s anti competitive harms trumped politics. As a supporter of the Open Internet wanting Network Neutrality rules of nondiscrimination to prevent centralization, exploitation and control of the Web by corporations to extend to mobile broadband and wireless services I was no doubt glad that the merger was denied. No doubt AT&T will try to convince Justice to reconsider its decision and try to fight the antitrust lawsuit in court. We have to continue exposing AT&T’s lies about the merger’s so called benefits for consumers but for now let’s celebrate this win. I applaud the Justice Department for its historic and terrific ruling against Ma Bell choosing to deny them an anti competitive Ma Cell. I also call on the FCC to deny this merger also.

The Obama Administration is rightly focused on policies to create jobs in this country and is protecting jobs that would be destroyed if the merger proceeded. I am writing extensively about the decision by Justice to deny the merger of AT&T and T Mobil because this is a big win for consumers and the wireless market. It’s unfortunate that some conservatives are siding with AT&T and complaining about Justice’s decision to protect consumers and competition in the wireless market. We need to remind conservative lawmakers who their constituents really are and that if they don’t stop siding with corporate lobbyists we can and will vote them out of office. Clearly we have more work to do but for now as I’ve noted earlier let’s celebrate.

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Eleventh Blog Entry Sat Sept 3

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Great news for consumers and the wireless market. The United States Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T Mobility’s merger with Deutsche Telecom’s T Mobil USA having found the merger to be anti competitive. Despite all of AT&T’s lobbying efforts consumers who wrote to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division asking that DOJ block the merger have succeeded in convincing Justice to deny this awful merger for consumers and innovators in the wireless market. The merger of AT&T and T Mobil USA would enable Ma Bell to establish a new anti competitive Ma Cell in the wireless market. The merger despite AT&T’s lies would actually destroy jobs in the country and reduce consumer choice. Justice having reviewed the facts made the smart choice in blocking the merger between the country’s second largest wireless carrier and the fourth. The merger after all would substantially reduce competition in the wireless phone market for post-paid cellular phone service. The Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski who says his agency is still reviewing the information submitted from supporters and opponents of the deal says his agency also has serious concerns about the transaction. Furthermore considering the FCC has never approved a merger denied by Justice it is highly unlikely they would approve this merger.

Like others supporting the national media reform movement I was disappointed with the Justice Department and FCC’s decisions to allow previous mergers that also had potential anti competitive effects. Remember they approved Qwest Century Link and Comcast NBCU. I was disappointed with the FCC’s sell out on Network Neutrality rules of nondiscrimination and the Chairman’s decision to abandon his own Third Way approach for regulating broadband providers that involved reclassifying broadband as a TItle II  public utility and an advanced “telecommunications service”. I was upset by Congressional Democrats caving to the former Bush Cheney Administration in 2008 when they voted to give telecoms immunity for their participation in the  illegal warrantless wiretapping program conducted during the Bush Administration by the NSA. However, this is a historic and terrific decision by Justice ruling in favor of the public interest and competition. Justice has refused to allow AT&T to have a spectrum monopoly. I believe Internet, broadband, communications, spectrum and media policies from Washington D.C. should be designed not to just benefit big cable and telecommunications companies but should actually serve the public interest. If the merger between AT&T and T Mobil had been approved AT&T  the second largest carrier and Verizon Wireless the nation’s largest carrier would have a near duopoly of the wireless market.  So thanks Justice for standing up to Ma Bell and denying them a Ma Cell.

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