October 24, 2007

James Cicconi of AT&T On Net Netrality

James Cicconi, Senior Executive VP Legislative and External Affairs for AT&T was at Esme Vos' Muniwireless conference yesterday, spewing what I would kindly call the greatest of spin, and unkindly as BS.

Net Neutrality is not about people telling network providers what to charge for tiered service. That's bull. Net Neutrality says that video packets, no matter where they come from, will get through at the same rates. Same with text or photos or VOIP or anything else. The network can't under Net Neutrality distinguish and discriminate because it doesn't like where something came from or the place the packet came from didn't pay the telco's any money to prioritize the packet.

To quote muniwireless (emphasis is mine):

It's Day 2 of the Muniwireless Silicon Valley Conference and they have an executive from AT&T talking about municipal wireless networks.
AT&T has not changed its tune. It is still against cities using public funds to compete with private enterprise and believes that communications should be left up to private firms like AT&T.
James Cicconi, Senior Executive VP Legislative and External Affairs for AT&T claims that there is no duopoly and there is enough competition in the market for telecommunications services, so cities should stay out.
What is AT&T's position on net neutrality?
Net neutrality is a challenge for all companies. You spend billions to deploy your assets and net neutrality means someone telling you what you can do with your assets - what you can charge, tiers of service, etc.
"All bits should be treated equal" is a problem for network engineers because one bit is porn another bit is heart surgery, another is email, yet another is voice, another is spam. That everything should be moved equally end to end is ludicrous. It's a more costly way to do things. It's not efficient, according to AT&T.
AT&T cannot build and maintain assets quickly enough to meet the demand. They are spending $19 billion this year. Some of the demand is driven by video. What happens when people start delivering high definition film? They can't build networks fast enough! What's the answer? Effective traffic management.
The antitrust laws can deal with the problems of net neutrality (side note: unfortunately these are not being enforced today). Why should AT&T want to degrade traffic? They will go to someone else (side note again: in a duopoly, you've got Comcast which has been blocking Bittorent traffic).

I don't know about you but where I live and work, we have two choices: AT&T for dsl or Comcast for cable internet access. They are both Mid-band services, and not great but better than dialup. And we pay exorbitantly for them compared to other countries.

So of course they want to take their AT&T/Comcast duopoly and spin Net Neutrality as being all about people interfering with their pricing models for tiered service when it's really all about prioritizing packets. They want to divert attention from the reality which is that they want to put their videos through first, their media, their VOIP or media/VOIP from people who've paid them off. Instead of letting users have what they want. The telco's want to own the pipes and the content.

It's wrong and we can't let the telcos win on this.

Posted by Mary Hodder at October 24, 2007 07:25 PM | TrackBack

I work for a lobby group (http://handsoff.org) that counts AT&T among our members. I can't speak for AT&T itself, but I still wanted to say, I find your allegation troubling and a little confusing.

I find it troubling not because I'm worried that AT&T is actually going to block or degrade other companies' services over their lines, but because you don't substantiate it.

The simple fact is all bits are not the same. Maybe in the future where bandwidth is all but unlimited it won't matter so much. But in the meamntime, traffic-shaping is just a way of life.

Posted by: HOTI Dave at October 25, 2007 08:19 AM

Hi Dave,
There is no confusion.

If AT&T wants to charge me more for a tiered service, where I buy more bandwidth, and they provide more for whatever I want to use it for, go ahead.

We already do that in the marketplace.

In the meantime, Comcast currently blocks bittorrent files (Dabble, my company, is a data partner with Bittorrent.com, which is distributing legally obtained Hollywood style content, and we index the trailers of the movies they sell for Hollywood).

See this for substantiation at Muniwireless:
and the original NYTimes/AP article here:

Also, you say I can't substantiate that AT&T is doing any degrading of certain styles of packets, and yet, you say "Traffic-shaping is just a way of life."

Seems to me you are substantiating your view that this is how it is, and that AT&T likely does it.

It's wrong. I'm the payer of my IPS service, and I get to decide what I want to see come across the pipe I pay for, not the provider. I choose the speed and price based upon what the telco offers, and the content should then be fed through based upon what I choose to click on, and sent through at the speed I've paid for.

The idea that my service provider would block the bits I ask for is ludicrous.

If you want to slow down the whole service because I buy a slower tier, fine. I accept that. But the idea that you can send through your own packets that you have an interest in faster, verses other packets you don't have an interest in is just wrong.

That's what net neutrality is about and I oppose the spin meisters who would try to make people think this is about tiered services with different overall speeds.


Posted by: mary hodder at October 25, 2007 08:58 AM