Communication at a distance, especially the electronic transmission of signals via the telephone

The Evolution of “Competition”: Lessons for 21st Century Telecommunications Policy

For over a century, assessments of competition or the lack thereof have been central to how public policy treats the telecommunications industry. This centrality continues today. Yet, numerous foundational questions about this concept persist. In this paper, we chronicle how the definition of “competition” has evolved in economics and has been applied in the communications arena. The academic literature on competition hits an important inflection point in the mid-20th century with the development of “workable competition”: a term that is equated to “effective competition.” We find that while the concept of “effective competition” is central to policy formation at the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC’s own applications of “effective competition” are inconsistent. Given the centrality of this concept, and its inconsistent applications to date, we draw upon the seminal contributions to the development of the notion of “effective competition” to offer a modern definition suitable for application in 21st century communications markets.

Justice Department OK With Liberty-GCI Deal

The Justice Department is apparently OK with Liberty Interactive's proposed purchase of Alaska telecom GCI. That came in an early termination notice released June 8. That means the DOJ has found no reason to try and block or condition the deal and put an early end to its Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust review. The Federal Communications Commission must still weigh in on the deal. It goes beyond antitrust to look at the public interest impact of mergers in the communications space. That review will not be concluded until at least next month. On May 19, the FCC created a pleading cycle for the deal, with comments due June 19 and reply comments due July 5. The $1.1 billion deal was struck in April.

With Verizon-CWA Copper Settlement, Union Forces Verizon’s Landline Hand

A complaint filed with the Pennsylvania public utilities commission has driven a Verizon-Communications Workers of America copper settlement involving maintenance of the company’s traditional landline network infrastructure. Verizon union workers represented by the CWA argued that the company was in violation of statutory obligations to provide adequate service to customers and that public and worker safety were endangered.

CWA filed the complaint in October 2015 and the PUC opened a proceeding to investigate the complaint in April 2016, according to a CWA press release. CWA said it submitted “exhaustive testimony” documenting inadequate maintenance on Verizon’s part. “For nearly two years, CWA documented Verizon’s failure to repair the copper network and equipment in areas where Verizon has chosen not to build out its FiOS fiber network,” said a CWA district vice president said.The Pennsylvania PUC action suggests, however, that some of the biggest challenges in phasing out copper may be more on the policy side than the regulatory side.

No, Your Phone Didn’t Ring. So Why Voice Mail From a Telemarketer?

It is called ringless voice mail, the latest attempt by telemarketers and debt collectors to reach the masses. The calls are quietly deposited through a back door, directly into a voice mail box — to the surprise and (presumably) irritation of the recipient, who cannot do anything to block them. Regulators are considering whether to ban these messages.

They have been hearing from ringless voice mail providers and pro-business groups, which argue that these messages should not qualify as calls and, therefore, should be exempt from consumer protection laws that ban similar types of telephone marketing. But consumer advocates, technology experts, people who have been inundated with these calls and the lawyers representing them say such an exemption would open the floodgates. Consumers’ voice mail boxes would be clogged with automated messages, they say, making it challenging to unearth important calls, whether they are from an elderly mother’s nursing home or a child’s school.

After bomb threats, FCC proposes letting police unveil anonymous callers

Police should be allowed to unmask anonymous callers who have made serious threats over the phone, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed. The proposal would allow law enforcement, and potentially the person who’s been called, to learn the phone number of an anonymous caller if they receive a “serious and imminent” threat that poses “substantial risk to property, life, safety, or health.” Specifics are still up in the air. The FCC is asking, for instance, whether unveiled caller ID information should only be provided to law enforcement officials investigating a threat, to ensure that this exemption isn’t abused.

AT&T-backed legislation to cut POTS lines limits affordable, reliable options, says AARP, Citizens Utility Board

AT&T-supported legislation in Illinois that would eliminate a requirement for the telco to offer landline voice service, or "plain old telephone service," has been met with opposition from the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and the AARP, igniting new debate on legacy services. Senate Bill 1381, which was passed 56-2 May 24, would abolish the state requirement that incumbent carrier AT&T offer traditional phone service. CUB said that the bill would set in motion a process that would eventually allow the company to send "cease to offer" notices to its 1.2 million business and residential landline customers in Illinois. Additionally, the legislation would increase phone rates for current customers by allowing AT&T to eliminate the low-cost "Consumer's Choice" local calling plans.

Why is telecommunications taxed like a sin?

[Commentary] The way governments in the United States treat telecommunications providers, you would think that the providers’ services came with a Surgeon General warning. Generally speaking, governments impose greater taxes on activities they want to discourage, such as smoking, or on things that their citizens are less likely to consume, such as rental cars. But telecom falls into neither category. So why is telecom taxed so heavily? And why are there so many different taxes and fees that some consultants and lawyers have built careers out of helping telecom companies decipher how much to pay and which forms to file? If we want more competition and more infrastructure, we should lower businesses costs by eliminating many of these taxes. At a minimum we need to continue to protect the internet from taxes and be diligent to not allow taxes and fees to slow down the internet of things.

[Jamison is the director and Gunter Professor of the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida; he served on President trump’s FCC transition team]

Republicans want to leave you more voicemail — without ever ringing your cellphone

For years, consumers have warred with telemarketers for ringing their landline phones at all hours of the day. Pretty soon, though, they might find their mobile voicemail under the same sort of assault — that is, if the Republican Party and others have their way.

The GOP’s leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers’ cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages — all without ever causing their devices to ring. Under current federal law, telemarketers and others, like political groups, aren’t allowed to launch robocall campaigns targeting cellphones unless they first obtain a consumer’s written consent. But businesses stress that it’s a different story when it comes to “ringless voicemail” — because it technically doesn’t qualify as a phone call in the first place. In their eyes, that means they shouldn’t need a customer or voter’s permission if they want to auto-dial mobile voicemail inboxes in bulk pre-made messages about a political candidate, product or cause. And they want the FCC to rule, once and for all, that they’re in the clear. Their argument, however, has drawn immense opposition from consumer advocates.