AT&T to FCC: Hands Off Specialized Services

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Filings began to pile up at the Federal Communications Commission as the midnight (Oct. 12) deadline approached for comments on two key issues in the debate over expanding and codifying network neutrality.

While computer companies argued for applying those guidelines to wireless broadband, and to managed services if the FCC feels it must weigh in now, ISP AT&T took the exact opposite tack.

In its comments, the company said it should keep its "hands-off" approach to the wireless industry, while it allows specialized services to "develop unhindered by innovation-stifling neutrality regulations."

That divide is essentially what blew up stakeholder talks over a legislative solution to clarifying the FCC's broadband authority. Both AT&T and computer companies were in those talks inside and outside the FCC.

Appealing to the FCC's emphasis on broadband as a link to telemedicine, energy education, and other national purposes, AT&T argues that so-called specialized services--those are services that ride the last mile of broadband infrastructure to the home but are not delivered on the "public Internet"--would be at risk if a network neutrality regime were applied to them.

"[S]pecialized services and mobile wireless services are critical to achieving the ambitious broadband goals established by Congress and this Administration," said the company in its filing. "Many of the individual services that will be used to meet the Recovery Act's goals-enhancing "consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation and economic growth"-will be "specialized" or wireless or, in many cases, both."

To apply network neutrality rules would "throw a wet blanket of investment-chilling regulatory uncertainty on the nascent market for specialized services," according to AT&T.

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