AT&T Says The Real Problem With The Internet Is We Pay Too Much Attention To Giant ISPs

from the ill-communication dept

As Silicon Valley giants like Google and Facebook face all manner of (justified) regulatory scrutiny, telecom has been able to somehow remove itself from the conversation, despite engaging in many of the same (if not worse) behaviors over the years. While Congress obsesses about new ways to regulate “big tech,” the US government has oddly been busy neutering all oversight of “big telecom”. That’s at least partially by design; giants like AT&T and Comcast have spent years pushing for the hyper regulation of companies telecom increasingly competes with in the online ad space.

The result: as Silicon Valley faces an endless cavalcade of daily DC and press outrage, the telecom sector has suddenly little to no scrutiny whatsoever. Whether it’s the speed at which the competition-eroding T-Mobile merger is being shoveled through the DOJ and FCC, or the blind eye being turned to major telecom privacy scandals (like location data), telecom lobbyists have been on a successful tear convincing well-heeled DC lawmakers to ignore the massive, obvious monopoly, privacy, and competition issues inherent in telecom to focus exclusively on the problems in “big tech.”

AT&T’s top lobbying and policy man, Jim Cicconi, was recently brought out of retirement to (in part) help tackle both the looming privacy minefield and an ongoing revolt among investors who have grown tired of AT&T’s focus on growth for growth’s sake. In a treatise nobody asked for, Cicconi this week shared his thoughts on recent missives at the NY Times exploring how the bloom of optimism has fallen from the internet rose in recent years.

The Times package focuses on everything from US broadband coverage woes to the rise of internet misinformation. But Cecconi’s takeaway from the package, unsurprisingly, is somehow that broadband providers are yesterday’s news and no longer worth talking about:

“Notably, nowhere does the series discuss internet service provider (ISP)-based open internet misconduct or concerns, and for good reason. As intervening events in the last few years have dramatically exposed how the internet is being used, misused and manipulated by a variety of internet players, ISP-centric arguments have quickly become yesterday?s policy story.”

This idea that the hugely unpopular telecom sector is an innocent little angel and Silicon Valley is the only real problem has been a narrative telecom giants have been pushing for a while, and with pretty notable success if you’ve tracked DC policy conversations and the newswires. But because the Times didn’t bother mentioning how telecom is nearly as terrible on privacy as Facebook, doesn’t make it untrue. Of course Cicconi and AT&T’s real goal is to ensure that whatever regulation and legislation comes from this era of reckoning, it won’t include big telecom:

“Yet for the past decade plus, the internet policy debate has been focused almost solely on ISPs, to the exclusion of other online actors. That regulatory myopia has in turn produced the internet we didn?t expect. The true costs and challenges of an interconnected world, which are now only starting to be more fully understood, are the issues that today demand our time, energy and best ideas. As we look back on the debate, I hope that the signs and signals we missed previously will illuminate our path forward.”

That’s total fantasy. The telecom sector has spent billions of dollars to eliminate consumer protections and government oversight of its businesses over the last few decades. That recently culminated in the FCC’s decision to effectively self-immolate at industry’s behest, shoveling any remaining telecom oversight to an FTC that lacks the authority or resources to police the sector effectively. The end result: a total accountability vacuum that’s letting the telecom sector rip off customers with relative impunity, provided they’re moderately clever about it.

Our friend Jim is worried about one thing: that Congress and the states will ruin AT&T’s string of good luck with new laws and regulation focused on subjects like privacy and an open internet. And he’d sure appreciate it if the most unpopular business sector in America, fresh on the heels of thirty years of anticompetitive behavior, is excluded entirely from the conversation.

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Companies: at&t

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Comments on “AT&T Says The Real Problem With The Internet Is We Pay Too Much Attention To Giant ISPs”

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Norahc (profile) says:

So we’re supposed to ignore rhe companies that often times have a monoply on our access to big tech sites, charge us exhorbant and ever increasing fees for this access, and have a history of bad behavior going back decades. Instead we need to focus on websites that we are not required to use or even visit if we don’t want to?

Wow…whatever drugs he’s on I want some.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"So we’re supposed to ignore rhe companies that often times have a monoply on our access to big tech sites, charge us exhorbant and ever increasing fees for this access, and have a history of bad behavior going back decades."

Uh, yes?

Look, AT&T, Comcast and Verizon are feeling all sore and tender over the unwanted and unwished for criticism they encounter just about everywhere. They work REALLY hard at screwing their customers after all, and are feeling all their hard work is unappreciated.

/s just in case…after all, with Bobmail/Blue around it’s sometimes hard to tell, no matter how demented the post is.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Yet for the past decade plus, the internet policy debate has been focused almost solely on ISPs, to the exclusion of other online actors."

This debate, I assume, is the net neutrality debate. What other online actors would net neutrality affect other than ISPs?
These other actors I assume are social media. How does social media play any role in net neutrality?
Perhaps my assumptions are incorrect, it wouldn’t be the first time.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

the big problem is without ISP, you cant get easy access…
And the ISP’s are trying to find ways to make more money, without competition.. they dont WANT to compete and dont want to BUY AMAZON or GOOGLE..
they want to create there own PAYMART.. where you can shop for anything, and PAY THEM MORE… And they cant see a way to do it, under THEIR ideal of Charging you for little to get nothing..

The Current ISP’s are not developers. They are bill collectors. The only thing they Might do is install new lines, and they charge a Fortune for that.. about $2000+ per pole to your house. Min without pole, is $50-100…to Goto the pole, find the connection, and drop a line to make 1 connection…Extra if you want 2 or more.
Most dont even like to create internet sites, where you can have access to them and their sales. because they have to pay someone to do it..

Dont know who has had time to watch whats happened on the net. But the fights and battles of Which company will become large enough, while also fighting movie/Music/… access to sell and trade has been a big battle. Whats left is what you get.
Even the porn sites hated this fight, and the Browser war has been over Protection and being able to go anywhere, and not worry to much about it..Protection from Advertising that JAMS/INFECT/STEALS/…/…/…. your computer..
If they wanted they could have a Browser Created.. and do allot, but these companies dont want competition. they dont want to fight the RIAA/MPAA to have access to music they could sell.. they dont understand the idea of BACKUP, RESTORE..If things fail they really dont want to fix it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You missed the big one, most of those companies are also cable TV companies.

When you deliver a product over your own network, and also enable access to competing products on over the same network, there is a strong temptation to protect your own product subscriptions by making the competitions more expensive, or less useful. The big ISPs are trying to turn the Internet into a subscription model, where they get paid extra for every service you use that they do not control.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Lets see..
The same companies in the areas, control..
TV/Cable/Sat/Internet/Wired phones/Wireless Phones/…
All communications.

And they wish to limit your access to Only Local,which isnt WHY we have a phone system. Our Gov. paid for rural areas to be Built up, because If something strange happens, it might be nice to tell someone besides the nearest COW.

Our Gov. paid for the backbone which most of these service Use.
If you didnt know. which I think you do.
If these End of line companies got SHUT DOWN, it would restrict all access out of a local area, and probably even that..
Even using Sat to communicate, send data, is a Pain to do, but the Gov. has that responsibility..and the only way for Sat to work well would be Using laser communications, and not radio freq. Radio causes a 5-7 second delay.. And is 1 good reason that the Undersea cables are Fiber. Waiting for a reply Long distance can suck.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: do I have to say it..

Yo mama’s so black every time she gets in a car the check oil light comes on
Yo mama’s so black if she sat in a jacuzy the water turned into coffee
Yo mama’s so black she went to night school and got marked absent
Yo mama’s so black she bleeds smoke
Yo mama’s so black she drinks water and pees coffee.
Yo mama’s so black that lightening bugs follow her in the daytime Yo mama’s so black I shot her and the bullets came back with flashlights saying "I can’t find the bitch"
Yo mama so black her blood type is burnt
Yo mama’s so black, she could show up naked to a funeral.
Yo mama’s so black, when she puts on yellow lipstick, she looks like a cheese burger.


This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Somebody call 911 for him

Either they have him held as a hostage, or his pants are going to give him 3rd degree burns.

If I don’t google, I can search with DuckDuckGo, email with any one of a number of webmail services, and guess what? I live a perfectly fulfilling life without Facebook, Snapchat, Instant Grandmother and whatever else the kids are using.

If I want to do any of that without Comcast, I can go to the library ad wait for Starlink to go active?

Yep, we’re definitely too focused on ISPs. </s for Poe’s law defense>

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

that is a solution.
Stop paying the corps to do something WE, can create.
Updating is the problem. In the past, we dont know what was done, but we see the out come. and it dont look nice.

we could put allot of people to work fixing all of this and CHARGE the corps for the mess. update it to the point that if needed we can do it 10 times faster and better.. changing things would be easy, NOT proprietary CRAP/.

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