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On December 19, 2013, TechFreedom is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Kingsbury Commitment with lunch and policy analysis. The event will include a luncheon keynote address by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai followed by a panel of policy leaders moderated by TechFreedom President Berin Szoka.
- Harold Feld, Public Knowledge
- Rob Atkinson, Information Technology & Innovation Foundation
- Hance Haney, Discovery Institute
- Jeff Eisenach, American Enterprise Institute
- Fred Campbell, Former FCC Commissioner
From the announcement:
Join TechFreedom on Thursday, December 19, the 100th anniversary of the Kingsbury Commitment, AT&T’s negotiated settlement of antitrust charges brought by the Department of Justice that gave AT&T a legal monopoly in most of the U.S. in exchange for a commitment to provide universal service.
The Commitment is hailed by many not just as a milestone in the public interest but as the bedrock of U.S. communications policy. Others see the settlement as the cynical exploitation of lofty rhetoric to establish a tightly regulated monopoly — and the beginning of decades of cozy regulatory capture that stifled competition and strangled innovation.
So which was it? More importantly, what can we learn from the seventy year period before the 1984 break-up of AT&T, and the last three decades of efforts to unleash competition? With fewer than a third of Americans relying on traditional telephony and Internet-based competitors increasingly driving competition, what does universal service mean in the digital era? As Congress contemplates overhauling the Communications Act, how can policymakers promote universal service through competition, by promoting innovation and investment? What should a new Kingsbury Commitment look like?
Public Knowledge and the Center for Media Justice have an eye on the transition from traditional copper landline telephone service to Internet-protocol services. As we move forward, both organizations continue to educate citizens on telecommunications policy and how it can affect us.
On December 12, at 2:00 p.m. EST, both groups will collaborate for a webinar on the transition. What's the Hang Up: A Webinar to Understand the Phone Network Transition and Defend Your Communication Rights, will offer info on the transition and will introduce participants to the "What's the Hang Up" toolkit, designed to help consumers get involved as we move forward. Presenters will be Stephani Chen, Amina Fazlullah, and Sean Meloy.
From the webinar announcement:
The largest telephone companies in the U.S. have announced they want to upgrade the technology that delivers phone service to an all internet-protocol (IP) based telephone network. The telephone has made universal communications possible keeping families connected, becoming a lifeline in times of crisis, and an economic engine for small businesses.
In order for our communities to continue to experience the benefits of the telephone, we must get involved. Over the coming months the Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies will be considering how to roll out this transition.
We continue to oppose the federal government's foray into creating a high tech surveillance state where the National Security Agency effectively has unlimited power to spy on Americans. The New York Times has released an op-doc embedded below that offers good reasons all Americans should be concerned, even if most are not doing anything they believe needs to be "hidden."
We previously discussed how community owned networks help to prevent against both corporate and federal government spying in this post.
The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) recently filed a report with the FCC as it examines the role of the Universal Services Fund (USF) in communications. Telecompetitor reports that NTCA filed the report as part of comments on November 7, 2013. The report by Vantage Point telecommunications engineering firm criticizes the argument that satellite is a magic pill for rural broadband availability. You can view a PDF of the report at FCC.gov.
The report lists high latency, capacity limitations, and environmental impacts the three main obstacles that complicate satellite usage. In the Executive Summary, the report goes on to note:
While satellites will continue to provide an important role in global communications, satellites do not have the capacity to replace a significant amount of the fixed wireline broadband in use today nor can they provide high‐quality, low‐latency communications currently available using landline communication systems. While recent advances have increased satellite capacity, the capacity available on an entire satellite is much smaller than that available on a single strand of fiber.
Telecompetitor speculates that the organization was motivated in part by the potential loss of USF funding to NCTA members. From the article:
The FCC has previously stated that as it transitions today’s voice-focused Universal Service Fund to focus instead on broadband, it envisions that homes in the areas that are most expensive to serve would receive broadband from a satellite (or possibly broadband wireless) provider. And depending how far the FCC is able to stretch its limited pool of USF dollars, it wouldn’t be surprising for the commission to consider expanding the number of homes targeted for satellite service – a move that eventually could leave some NTCA members without USF funding.
Regardless of the motivation, the fact remains that satellite is a poor replacement for wireline services. Latency, lack of capacity, and environmental factors degrade the quality of the service; data caps degrade its effectiveness. From the report: