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AT&T Lies Again, Insists Net Neutrality Rules Will Hurt First Responders

from the chicken-little-fast-lanes dept

So one of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon’s favorite bogus claims about net neutrality rules is that such consumer protections will somehow prevent the sick or disabled from getting the essential internet connectivity they need. For example, Verizon once tried to claim that the deaf and disabled would be harmed if large ISPs weren’t allowed to create fast or slow lanes, or prioritize emergency traffic over say — Netflix streams. Comcast recently tried to argue something similar, again implying that the hearing-impaired could be harmed unless ISPs are allowed to prioritize or deprioritize select classes of traffic.

But this claim that net neutrality rules somehow prevent ISPs from prioritizing essential medical technologies or other priority traffic has always been bullshit.

The FCC’s 2015 open internet rules (pdf) are embedded with numerous, significant caveats when it comes to creating fast and slow lanes, and only really single out the creation of fast or slow lanes when it comes to hindering competitors. In fact, the existing rules go to great lengths to differentiate “Broadband Internet Access Service (BIAS),? (your e-mail, Netflix streams and other more ordinary traffic) from ?Non-BIAS data services,? which can include everything from priority VoIP traffic to your heart monitor and other Telemedicine systems.

The fact that this talking point is complete and utter bullshit (much like the one about how net neutrality kills network investment) doesn’t stop it from being circulated repeatedly by the army of politicians, think tankers, consultants, fauxcademics, and lobbyists paid to pee in the net neutrality discourse pool.

One of the core perpetrators of this myth is AT&T, which just scored a massive, lucrative $6.5 billion contract to build the nation’s first, unified emergency first responder network: aka FirstNet. Speaking about the project at a recent investor event this week, AT&T’s John Stephens once again trotted out this bogeyman for proud display, implying that net neutrality rules would somehow threaten first responder network traffic:

“During an appearance this morning at an investor event, AT&T?s CFO pointed out that FirstNet?s pre-emption requirements for public safety users present ?a challenge with the net neutrality process because you are giving prioritized service to police, firefighters.?

?But quite frankly I think everyone would agree that that?s probably a good thing,? explained John Stephens, AT&T?s SVP and CFO. ?It?s just one of the uniquenesses of some of the other arguments that we have to deal with.?

Of course if you didn’t know the net neutrality rules were carefully crafted to exempt precisely this sort of traffic from them, you might become outraged, which was Stephens’ intent. The executive proceeded to double down on his falsehood:

“We have the ability today to give [FirstNet public-safety users] preferential treatment. What we?ll have by the end of the year is what we call ?relentless pre-emption,? such that if there?s capacity for 10 calls and 10 calls are being used, and a firefighter gets on, one of the 10 people gets booted off and the firefighter gets in,? he said. ?Quite frankly, I don?t think they thought about it [when crafting net neutrality guidelines]. The FirstNet process has been around since 9/11. It came out of the 9/11 events, and so that had been out there for a long time, and so I don?t even think it was even considered.?

Right, “not even considered.” Except for the fact that it was painstakingly considered, and AT&T knows it. It’s a little grotesque to use the specter of 9/11 to attack popular net neutrality protections, but that’s well in line with AT&T’s behavior on this subject (including its recent use of the net neutrality protests to con its own customers into opposing net neutrality. In reality AT&T isn’t worried about net neutrality rules harming medical services, since they’ve long-been exempted. AT&T’s worried about one thing: any rules stopping it from abusing a lack of broadband competition to drive up prices and engage in anti-competitive behavior.

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Companies: at&t

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Comments on “AT&T Lies Again, Insists Net Neutrality Rules Will Hurt First Responders”

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29 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

So what they are saying is that treating all packets equally and ensuring they reach their destination undisturbed by filters and throttling (the very definition of NN) would somehow hurt the ones sending part of these packets while throttling the heck out of the network and prioritizing only packets originating from their own services while screwing the rest (what the lack of NN would allow) would not.

So either you are incompetent and oversold your capacity meaning you have to do traffic shaping, you are ignorant of what NN means or you are lying to make extra bucks without making any effort. Which is it AT&T?

MyNameHere (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, what they are asserting is that, given a limited amount of total bandwidth for any given customer or service, there is no way to assure all packets and all data reach their destination in a timely manner. If you have network congestion, the lack of the ability to provide QoS or to have preferential treatment of certain traffic over others would be an issue.

Oversold capacity is an issue, as are applications and services that require much more bandwidth than is normal for internet usage. it’s simply not economically viable in the US for companies to set up their networks to meet full peak demand at all times. Google already proved that.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No. If I bought capacity to squeeze an elephant through you will have to squeeze it to me. Simple as that.

If you have network congestion then fix it. Allowing packet discrimination is a slippery slope that will end up with what we are seeing today.

Google is running well and dandy without caps or QoS last time I heard. They even embraced Brian Krebs under their project shield (DDoS protection for journalists) knowing they could suffer insanely major DDoS attacks simply because they have a shit ton of spare capacity. Go educate yourself before speaking.

BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You see… it’s a lot like when there’s problems with traffic congestion. The legislated Rules Of The Road and Traffic Regulations and the traffic signals, are much like Net Neutrality this way; when traffic on the roads is gridlocked in a traffic jam, those poorly considered regulations effectively prevent emergency vehicles from speeding to their destinations — precisely when those services are most desperately needed.

Well now, as any fool can see… the obvious solution is to just get rid of those stupid Rules Of The Road, those pointless Traffic Regulations and those counterproductive traffic signals — so as to make absolutely sure that every fire engine, police cruiser and ambulance can get to its urgent destination with all appropriate dispatch, no matter the circumstances.

I hope that clarifies the matter 😕

TechDescartes (profile) says:

Just the Fax, Ma'am

What we’ll have by the end of the year is what we call ‘relentless pre-emption,’ such that if there’s capacity for 10 calls and 10 calls are being used, and a firefighter gets on, one of the 10 people gets booted off and the firefighter gets in,” he said. “Quite frankly, I don’t think they thought about it [when crafting net neutrality guidelines].

This is completely true. And completely misleading.

According to FirstNet.gov, if FirstNet isn’t being used to capacity, the contract with the government permits AT&T to route traffic over FirstNet spectrum, subject to prioritizing first-responder traffic:

AT&T can use FirstNet’s spectrum when it is not being used by public
safety for other, commercial purposes. The company will prioritize first responders over any other commercial users on the Network.

But FirstNet doesn’t run over the internet at all, so net neutrality rules are irrelevant. It is a completely separate broadband network.

So while Stephens is completely correct when he says "I don’t think they thought about it," this is the equivalent of saying that the DOT didn’t think about air traffic when they approved carpool lanes on the interstate. The two have nothing to do with each other.

The irony is that companies like T-Mobile that bought billions in spectrum from the FCC paid for the network, as FCC spectrum auctions were used to pay AT&T the $6.5B to build FirstNet. Maybe this will cause John Legere to switch sides on net neutrality.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You seem to be missing a salient point here:

Many home phones are VOIP.

Gramma got a bundled cable and phone service. All she knows is that she plugs the phone into the box, and it works just like it always has. However, that cable phone is VOIP.

I think Verizon home phones work the same way, just over FiOS, or whatever it’s called.

Anonymous Coward says:

Who the fucking hell is running AT&T these days? What the fuck does net neutrality have to do with emergency services? I have a hard time believing that passing net neutrality will affect the arrival of an ambulance, a police car or a fire truck to my home.

What next? Net neutrality will affect my experience watching a movie at the local theater? LOLS. Will it affect me going to the grocery store to buy food? LOLS

Anonymous Coward says:

This is just so much BS

If AT&T (and Verizon, et.al.) cared about first responders, then they’d be doing everything they could to maintain copper lines, especially in probable disaster zones.

Let me explain. I train first responders. Sometimes I am one. And the general rule for every piece of gear we have and every piece of gear we touch is that the higher the tech, the faster it fails. So while we have some interesting toys, we do NOT rely on them. We always have fallbacks. GPS? Sure. But a map and compass too.

With regards to telecom in disaster areas, cell towers, fiber, and cable compete for the honor of failing first. They’re complex, they depend on power supplies that are never adequate under duress, and they’re often installed in ways that are well below minimal standards. (Why not? Nobody’s checking.) But old copper lines hang in there, often well past the point that any reasonable person would expect them to.

So you know what I’m never without? A buttset. Oh sure, I have other gear, and that’s great, but I know that IF it works at all…it won’t keep working. But if I can find a copper line, I have a fighting chance of getting a call through. And I’ve made a few, thank goodness, in adverse environments.

But those days are fading. Which they wouldn’t be if AT&T actually gave a damn about our lives.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is just so much BS

So you know what I’m never without? A buttset.

That seems like a good idea, but I’d expect a ham radio to be more reliable. Ideally one that will run off a 48V telco supply so you can alligator-clip to a phone line for power.

It’s short-sighted of the phone companies to remove copper lines, but the resulting problems won’t be their problems (and cable companies provide phone service now, but were never subject to the same power/availability requirements). Maybe the cities can buy them to use as an emergency power network. Even one line per block, connected in "party line" format would be good enough for emergency calls and would make trunking much less complex.

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