Net neutrality: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile react

Nilay Patel
N. Patel|12.22.10

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Net neutrality: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile react
Amazingly, the FCC still hasn't released the full text of the net neutrality rules it passed by a contentious 3-2 vote yesterday, so we can't really say much about what's in them -- and while this sort of delay is typical of the Genachowski FCC, it hasn't stopped the carriers from issuing statements on the new rules. We've got to say, responses to the new rules range all over the map: Sprint commended the FCC, T-Mobile needs some time to look things over, AT&T called it a "fair middle ground" but railed about "radical voices" and "heavy-handed government regulation" (seriously) and Verizon -- well, Verizon issued what appears to be a veiled threat to sue everyone. That's pretty interesting, since it sure looks to us like the FCC all but rubber-stamped last summer's Google / Verizon neutrality proposal, but you never know what's happening behind closed doors -- and remember, Verizon's last major policy statement was a call to revamp the entire Telecommunications Act, so Big Red might have bigger plans in store. We've rounded up all the reactions below -- check 'em out.

From Tom Sugrue, vice president of government affairs:

We will have to review the FCC decision carefully before commenting on the substance, but we do hope by adopting this item it is now possible for the FCC to turn to the priorities of its national broadband plan, including acting on its pro-competitive data roaming proposal and making more spectrum available to support the continued deployment of advanced mobile broadband services so important to economy.

From Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president of legislative and external affairs:

For far too long, the question of net neutrality has hamstrung the FCC and prevented needed action on far more urgent, and real, problems. Today's vote, we trust, will put this issue behind us with a compromise that appears to balance major differences despite a number of lingering concerns.

We appreciate the views expressed publicly by Commissioners McDowell and Baker. Theirs is, we feel, a position supported by the factual record in front of the Commission, and by law. It would also be our preference, especially given the utter absence of any evidence that abuses are occurring in the Internet market, let alone any of the gravity to justify government intervention.

At the same time, we recognize the determination of the Chairman to move forward with a rulemaking. In this circumstance, which is not ideal, our overarching concern is to bring market certainty so that investment and job creation can go forward, while ensuring that we can still meet the expectations of our customers. Though a final view must await a careful reading of the FCC's order, we believe the Chairman's compromise can provide this certainty while taking steps to preserve flexibility for investment and innovation.

In particular, we would like to commend Chairman Genachowski and his staff for seeking a fair middle ground in this contentious debate. As we have seen in many issues, there are always radical voices urging heavy-handed government regulation and control of free markets. Such voices have not been absent from the net neutrality debate despite their repudiation by the American public.

Too often, well-funded ideologues have used intimidation, vilification, and fear-mongering to advance their goal that government control the Internet and other forms of communication without regard for their impact on the jobs and livelihoods of millions already challenged by a difficult economy. The Commission's apparent rejection of such unfeeling dogma is an added reason to be heartened by today's FCC vote.

From Vonya B. McCann, senior vice president of government affairs:

Sprint has always believed in giving consumers and developers access to an open Internet and broadband services – allowing to them take advantage of the timely and diverse information the Web has to offer, and provide a path to create new applications, devices and continuously energize the tech industry.

Sprint commends the FCC for the careful and deliberate approach it has taken on this issue. It is an important next step in ensuring the freedom and openness of the Internet, while also recognizing the differences between fixed and mobile networks and the importance of providing all broadband providers with the flexibility to manage their networks.

While Sprint will study carefully the text of the Order, the outline presented at today's meeting appears to be a fair and balanced approach to a difficult issue. Sprint is encouraged that the Commission has resolved this issue and is moving forward.

From Tom Tauke, executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications:

Verizon has long been committed to the goal of an open and vibrant Internet. We have invested tens of billions of dollars building innovative and dynamic wireline and wireless broadband networks that provide abundant capacity to our customers. We are also the only major Internet service provider that has publicly embraced openness obligations for both its wireline and wireless broadband Internet access services. We do this because we believe this is good for our customers and good for our business.

Although we share with the FCC the overarching goals of an open Internet, we are deeply concerned by today's 3-2 decision. The FCC's majority breaks with years of bipartisan communications policies that recognized that Internet innovation and investment - and the jobs they create - thrive without government intervention. There is no doubt that the policies put in place by the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration to jumpstart innovation and the spread of broadband worked. As a result, America's broadband and Internet marketplace is intensely competitive and an engine of economic growth, job creation and multibillion-dollar investment. Today's decision, however, unnecessarily departs from these successful policies.

While it will take some time for us to analyze the FCC's rules and the order once they are released, the FCC's decision apparently reaches far beyond the net neutrality rules it announced today. Based on today's announcement, the FCC appears to assert broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband wireline and wireless networks and the Internet itself. This assertion of authority without solid statutory underpinnings will yield continued uncertainty for industry, innovators, and investors. In the long run, that is harmful to consumers and the nation.

Verizon remains committed to preserving an open Internet and meeting the needs of our customers. We will continue to work constructively with the FCC and the Congress on these issues.

From President and CEO Steve Largent:

While we agree with Commissioners McDowell and Baker that net neutrality rules are unnecessary, and we continue to maintain that net neutrality rules are particularly unnecessary for the wireless industry that continually innovates, competes and significantly invests in our nation, we recognize that the Chairman has attempted to bridge the differences among the various stakeholders. As we await the text of the Report and Order, we appreciate that the Commission's action today appears to recognize the important differences between fixed and mobile broadband. Whether it is the competition within the industry, the technical characteristics of the service or the distinct deregulatory framework adopted by Congress under which wireless currently operates, wireless is different."

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