AT&T has a plan that will strip all Americans of their consumer protections when it comes to the telecommunications industry. And if the plan is approved, cost Americans a lot of money. How is this possible you ask? Well, currently AT&T and other big telecommunication providers still use circuit-switching technology on portions of their networks (e.g. traditional landlines, alarm circuits, and many of the “special access” connections that carry voice and data traffic from cellular towers) to route information, and now, they want to switch out that equipment and upgrade it to Internet Protocol (IP) technology to route voice and data traffic.
That sounds harmless, right? It’s not.
The reason why this is potentially very bad is because a while back the FCC decided that it has no direct authority over communications networks that use IP. Which means if AT&T’s plan is approved by the FCC, it could lead to a state of total deregulation.
If there is no regulation, it could lead to a lot of different scenarios, including higher prices for consumers and even potential service disruptions that aren’t fixed quickly or at all (the latter part probably being an unrealistic concern, but it is possible) leaving customers in the dark. This petition by AT&T to convert their older technology to IP-based technology is definitely a very tricky situation and one the FCC needs to consider extremely carefully before approving it.
And if losing our consumer protections isn’t bad enough, by killing off the public telecom network, AT&T’s plan is a huge threat to the future of American innovation and Internet freedom. Let’s not forget that is was because of public policies that people like Vint Cerf were able to use the public telecommunications network as a building block for the Internet and innovation.
What can be about this? Well, spreading the word and making people aware of this plan is a start. Make our opposition heard.