AT&T: Administration Needs Consistent Net Governance Message

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Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president at AT&T in Washington Tuesday suggested the administration was sending a bit of a mixed message about Internet regulation.

Cicconi, speaking at a Free State Foundation summit panel on whether the Internet would remain free from the type of public utility regulation many feared when the Federal Communications Commission proposed a Title II regime for network openness, praised the Obama Administration for sending a signal to ITU not to adopt a government-control model for the global Internet. But he suggested it might not be sending the same message to the folks back home.

"Since the Obama administration argues that foreign government intervention regulation will hurt the Internet globally, our own FCC must accept that proposition at home," he said.

As examples of where the FCC might be engaging in some do as I say not as I do, he cited the fact that the Title II docket remained open, and the FCC's mandate of data roaming.

In a speech to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated his opposition to creating a new international regulatory body to govern the Internet -- there are fears, expressed repeatedly by FCC commissioner Robert McDowell -- that the upcoming renegotiating of an international telecom treaty could result in an ITU-centric Internet governance model. Genachowski agrees that the multistakeholder approach to the 'net is best.

But Cicconi said that some actions by the FCC may be undermining the effort to combat an ITU model of Internet governance and providing ammunition to opponents of the U.S. position. "We need to sink up our actions with our own policies," he said.

Speaking about regulation in general, Cicconi said that the FCC is in denial about the level of competition, using as an example its release of a satellite competition report that refused to recognize competition. Rick Whitt of Google, who was on a panel with Cicconi, suggested that every regulation should sunset that would require defending and justifying it before it could be renewed.

Summing up the panel, moderator Deborah Taylor Tate, adjunct fellow at the foundation and a former FCC commissioner, said that the idea was not that there should be no regulation, but that the government should take a light hand and be technology agnostic.

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