Kevin Martin To AT&T: Okay, Now Feel Free To Ignore Those Concessions You Just Promised
from the say-what? dept
There was a lot of controversy on Friday after the late Thursday agreement by AT&T to offer some concessions in order to get its merger with BellSouth approved. There was a fair amount of disagreement over whether or not those concessions actually let through a big loophole that would let AT&T effectively ignore the spirit of the concessions, though many people felt that the concessions really were significant. The argument on that side is that, at least AT&T agreed to some basic definition of net neutrality, and if they dared to actually break it (either in spirit or letter of the concessions), there would be an immediate uproar to the FCC. Of course, that only matters if the FCC cares — and it appears that they don’t.
As Kevin Werbach notes, a statement issued by FCC chair Kevin Martin (who apparently was already on vacation, but still voted on the deal by email) basically said that AT&T’s concession promises are meaningless, and even though they helped convince Commissioners Copps & Adelstein to change their vote to favor the deal, Martin has no intention of holding AT&T to their word. In fact, he makes it very clear that if AT&T wants to violate the net neutrality they just promised, they’re absolutely free to do so: “to the extent that AT&T has, as a business matter, determined to take certain actions, they are allowed to do so.” It is true that the concession letters are hardly binding and plenty of things could change over the next few years (or even months). However, it does seem fairly ridiculous that Copps & Adelstein changed their vote on such short notice, especially if the concessions are meaningless fluff that the FCC doesn’t actually care about. If that’s the case, why did the two commissioners change their votes?