Oops, AT&T makes persuasive case that Title II is better than the alternative

by Steve Blum • , , ,

AT&T spins a cautionary tale.

In the what were they thinking? category, AT&T is trying to slam the idea of common carrier broadband regulation (aka Title II) by posting a lengthy account of a bureaucratic battle it’s fighting over arcane inter-carrier rules (h/t to the Baller-Herbst list for the pointer). True, introducing any kind of regulation makes life more complicated, and companies with the strongest market position will be the hardest hit. Which is the point, of course: common carrier rules exist to provide a counterweight to dominant companies in a monopolised market.

AT&T says its byzantine Beltway ordeal is “a cautionary tale about the absence of regulatory certainty” which indeed it is. But it’s not particularly about “the world of Title II regulation”, as AT&T claims.

It’s really about the extent to which big companies – telephone and cable – manipulate the FCC and its byzantine procedures to try to gain an advantage over each other, and over smaller would-be competitors and consumers.

What’s on the table now, though, is not a laissez-faire paradise, but a choice between the prospect of pre-defined (and yes, likely horrendously complex) common carrier rules, or a make-it-up-as-we-go game designed to please the players with the thickest swarms of lawyers and lobbyists carrying the heaviest bags of cash. The regulatory swamp that AT&T cautions us against will only get deeper if lobbyist-in-chief Tom Wheeler spends his time splitting the baby instead of refereeing an open and honest game.