AT&T’s Stephenson confident on Net Neutrality

Written by on May 19, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

wooden chess board with chess pieces on.

Randall Stephenson believes that regulating the fast moving, modern communications business using legislation designed in the 1930s is not the right way to go. And he is not alone. He also believes strongly that the FCC will back down, at least somewhat. The judge who listened to the original arguments has asked the FCC to come up with an answer – review or remain stubborn – by Friday. As Stephenson says, they are having a busy week.

So confident is he that he has announced that the $18 billion investment that he paused while the rules were clarified could be back on track within days. Even the FCC will have to take that incentive (or is it a threat?) into account. Interestingly, in a story on Fierce he also pointed out that it is not only AT&T that has pressed ‘pause’ on investments, and in fact it is the banks that have stopped the funding while the situation is clarified.

It will be interesting – to say the least – to see if the Obama backed regulations will be upheld and then be dragged through the courts by lawyers for the next two years. The alternative, surely, is to either allow the industry to sort it out for itself (as it is in the abolition of roaming charges) or to use a far more modern form of regulation or set of rules to provide a balance between innovation and fair play.

The consensus is that innovation will be curtailed if these regulations go through. Even though sponsored data is not (yet?) proving as popular in the US as was originally envisaged, innovations such as zero rated applications will be (and have been) disallowed.

If the FCC decides to work with the industry and act more as a GSMA than a Government department then the situation in the US will ease. The question will then be what happens in other regions where the arguments are just as fierce – such as India.

With the industry, including giants such as Facebook, firmly against Title II it would be a brave man who would bet against a climb down. But then it may come down to how determined Obama is about this path he has chosen.

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Alex Leslie

About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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