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Rick Boucher: From Fair Use Champ to AT&T Sockpuppet
History Shows Deregulating AT&T Helps Nobody But AT&T
by Karl Bode 12:38PM Friday Jan 18 2013
Former Virginia Demoratic Congressman Rick Boucher used to have a lot of nerd credibility in the technology field, urging regulators to aim high when it came to broadband goals, while being one of the pre-eminent voices for fair use rights. What has been he doing since leaving Congress? Working for AT&T as a paid sockpuppet, penning pro-AT&T editorials in major news outlets without disclosing his ties to AT&T. Boucher's employed by the law firm of Sidley Austin, which has been representing AT&T for the last century.

Click for full size
Boucher has been a very busy boy.

Over at the "Internet Innovation Alliance" (an AT&T paid front group), Boucher whines about FCC rules aimed at preventing AT&T from spectrum squatting. In a piece at Roll Call, he argues the broadband industry is so gosh-darn competitive, rules governing predatory duopoly behavior aren't necessary.

None of the news outlets mention Boucher's ties to AT&T. That includes Politico, where Boucher this week took aim at regulations governing landline networks. AT&T has been busy trying to dismantle government rules governing POTS and DSL so the company can hang up on their unupgraded DSL and copper phone customers to focus solely on higher-growth wireless. According to Boucher, letting AT&T walk away from these networks will result in magical "innovation" and investment:
quote:
One of the most egregious monopoly-era regulations still on the books is the requirement that legacy carriers continue maintaining legacy copper networks and leasing them to their competitors at below-market rates. While these rules made sense at the dawn of the Internet era when little, if any, competition existed and telephone networks had been built via government-guaranteed rate-of-return exclusivity, they have long been overtaken by events. Today these regulations from the past century result in a misallocation of resources. And they perpetuate free-rider business models that diminish investment in networks and hinder innovation in telecom services.
Unmentioned of course is that AT&T has enjoyed thirty years of poorly monitored taxpayer billions in the form of subsidies and tax breaks to install and maintain these lines. Letting the company hang up on these users creates significant problems -- problems that certainly won't be addressed through the usual "all regulation is always evil" absolutist and myopic viewpoint that permeates American business and technology discourse.

AT&T's goal is to disconnect these users, letting them flee to cable or AT&T wireless services. Doing so creates a major cable monopoly over fixed line broadband, so if they flee to cable, they face higher rates. If they shift from DSL to wireless, they face again, higher rates in the form of $15 per gigabyte overages. Meanwhile, cutting these lines in areas LTE won't reach also creates broadband and voice gaps -- in an age where we're supposed to be eliminating them. Higher prices, stronger monopolies and broader coverage gaps don't exactly scream "innovation" or "investment."

As such, suggesting that AT&T -- whose investment in fixed line networks has been dropping like a stone -- cares about investment in fixed line networks is a farce. AT&T's play here (and Verizon is doing the same thing) is a massive deal that will impact the telecom industry for the next thirty years. It's a huge and complicated shift in the telecom landscape, and it deserves more intelligent, honest and nuanced conversation than what's historically been provided by paid puppetry.

Unfortunately, the telecom industry for as long as I've written about it has been stuck in intelligent discourse purgatory where paid sockpuppets simply repeat the same falsehoods year after year, despite the claims being discredited repeatedly. As a result the United States broadband industry keeps stumbling over the same problems: namely corrupt regulators, regulatory capture, high prices and a lack of competition.

Boucher also, as most sockpuppets like to do, ignores the reality behind deregulation. Despite repeated claims by companies like AT&T that deregulation results in some kind of mystical telecom Utopia, the result in AT&T's case has nearly always been lower quality service and higher prices for consumers. The San Francisco Chronicle this week illustrates only the latest example of this, noting how California's PUC in 2006 deregulated AT&T, and despite promises of a competitive wonderland by then Commissioner Rachelle Chong, the result has been anything but:
quote:
Since fall 2006, AT&T's price for flat-rate landline phone service has leaped 115 percent, from $10.69 per month to $23, according to information from the commission. The monthly price for measured service, which charges a fixed rate for a limited number of calls, has soared 222 percent - from $5.70 to $18.35. Call-waiting charges popped almost 180 percent. Anonymous call rejection costs nearly quadrupled. Even flat-rate prices for the LifeLine Program basic service, discounted for California's low-income households, have risen 28 percent.
There's an endless sea of data showing that deregulating AT&T hurts consumers, innovation and investment. That fact keeps getting conveniently buried thanks to the telecom incumbents' ocean of hired consultants, lobbyists, and puppets like Boucher. That's clearly not changing anytime soon, but perhaps the very least we should expect is for news outlets to clearly illustrate who is pulling the strings.

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Joey1973

@verizon.net

Mouthpiece for his clients?

...must be a lawyer.
nasadude

join:2001-10-05
Rockville, MD

Re: Mouthpiece for his clients?

no, a former congressman. just shows that money trumps all, especially with that kind of creature.

Joey1973

@verizon.net

Re: Mouthpiece for his clients?

And, if you'd checked, also a lawyer (as are most Congressmen/women). Which means: it's not the truth that matters, only what your client says is true.

WHT

join:2010-03-26
Rosston, TX
kudos:5

Re: Mouthpiece for his clients?

A lawyer will tell you there are one hundred ways to tell the truth.

tshirt
Premium
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Comcast
Actually he's both. Not all that unusual in the house or senate to at least have studied law, have a degree or be a member of the bar practicing or not. Even those who came from the business world usually have more than basic business law on their resume, not a bad thing for those intending to write laws, or at least understand their consequences, intended or not... unfortunately common sense and judgment is lacking or quickly forgotten by some.
Telco

join:2008-12-19
He's from the most rural backwards part of the state, so it says it all. Today, that region is through and through Republicuuuuun.

Relying on anyone from there to discuss technology is like relying on a 3rd world country to discuss quality of life.

Simba7
I Void Warranties

join:2003-03-24
Billings, MT

Doesn't really surprise me..

I wonder how much at&t is paying this moron to lie for them.

FFH5
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

quote:
Unmentioned of course is that AT&T has been paid countless taxpayer billions to install and maintain these lines
Someone ALWAYS brings up that AT&T and its progeny after the breakup were subsidized by the government. Not entirely true, because it wasn't subsidies but regulated rates and ROI they are referring to - not the same thing at all.

All of which is sort of irrelevant to present day reality - a deregulated environment where there are not guaranteed prices or rates of return.

And moving away from old copper networks to wireless networks is nothing different than when society moved on from horses to automobiles - technological progress. Those demanding that old copper be maintained or replaced with fiber are refusing to recognize that technology is moving on and that businesses can't continue to expend scarce resources(investment $$$$) on a more costly and increasingly irrelevant technology(last mile landlines). Like Asia(where wireless is THE future), the US has to let go of the past and move on to the future of communications.
--
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury.
TechnoGeek

join:2013-01-07

1 recommendation

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

Um, Asia has significant wired services (Korea, Japan). Some of it much better than ours.

LTE is not going to match cable's performance in the foreseeable future, so how is it the future if the performance is the same as what its replacing (DSL)? And I'm not even talking about the new problems that come with wireless (interference, etc). How does LTE handle wireless congestion? I certainly don't think it will do as good of a job as a wired facility, but I am not a network engineer, so I don't really know.

One more point is that AT&T (and other cell providers) are aggressive cappers, saying that caps are needed to reduce congestion. LTE is going to be the same story I think.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink

1 recommendation

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

said by TechnoGeek:

Um, Asia has significant wired services (Korea, Japan). Some of it much better than ours.

LTE is not going to match cable's performance in the foreseeable future, so how is it the future if the performance is the same as what its replacing (DSL)? And I'm not even talking about the new problems that come with wireless (interference, etc). How does LTE handle wireless congestion? I certainly don't think it will do as good of a job as a wired facility, but I am not a network engineer, so I don't really know.

One more point is that AT&T (and other cell providers) are aggressive cappers, saying that caps are needed to reduce congestion. LTE is going to be the same story I think.

If consumers are willing to pay for "significant wired services", including those that are "better than ours", then someone will install them.

If they aren't, it won't happen.

Verizon has demonstrated the willingness to take the risk on FTTH, and has spent huge sums chasing it. But the majority of customers aren't buying it.

With fixed-LTE looming, wired providers are foolish to risk capital on products they have to price at $70+/month, when the subscribers are looking for a $30-40 product.

While it is difficult for wireless to beat wired for performance, when you consider the cost to deploy (and therefore monthly pricing), and when you consider the ongoing maintenance requirements for wired, add in consumer choice (to do without wired), and wireless rules the day.
Sammer

join:2005-12-22
Canonsburg, PA

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

said by elray:

While it is difficult for wireless to beat wired for performance, when you consider the cost to deploy (and therefore monthly pricing), and when you consider the ongoing maintenance requirements for wired, add in consumer choice (to do without wired), and wireless rules the day.

It is impossible for wireless to beat fiber to the premises for performance just as it is impossible for fiber to beat the mobility of wireless. Unless we want to become a third world country both will be needed in the future and fiber is the logical replacement for the public switched telephone network. Long term maintenance costs are much lower for fiber than for copper and probably even lower than for wireless. In a country that put man on the moon and built the interstate highway system saying that fiber to the premises is too costly shows a lack of will.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink

1 recommendation

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

said by Sammer:

said by elray:

While it is difficult for wireless to beat wired for performance, when you consider the cost to deploy (and therefore monthly pricing), and when you consider the ongoing maintenance requirements for wired, add in consumer choice (to do without wired), and wireless rules the day.

It is impossible for wireless to beat fiber to the premises for performance just as it is impossible for fiber to beat the mobility of wireless. Unless we want to become a third world country both will be needed in the future and fiber is the logical replacement for the public switched telephone network. Long term maintenance costs are much lower for fiber than for copper and probably even lower than for wireless. In a country that put man on the moon and built the interstate highway system saying that fiber to the premises is too costly shows a lack of will.

The "logical" replacement for the PSTN is wireless. People have already voted so with their wallets.

There may be no means to match fiber's performance, but no one actually NEEDS fiber performance, they only want it - and the majority aren't willing to pay for it when it is so offered.

Installing FTTH isn't going to grow the economy, or prevent us from becoming a third-rate nation; we're already well on our way, given our spending/borrowing habits, welfare state, open borders, socialized medicine, and general lack of morality.

It is indeed, too costly. Consumers are saying "No, thank you."
When Dane Jasper of Sonic, Google, Surewest, and others figure a way to deliver FTTH at DSL prices to everyone, they will. But please don't project your own personal desire for a luxury service and expect the rest of us to subsidize it.

a333
A hot cup of integrals please

join:2007-06-12
Rego Park, NY
said by elray:

said by TechnoGeek:

Um, Asia has significant wired services (Korea, Japan). Some of it much better than ours.

LTE is not going to match cable's performance in the foreseeable future, so how is it the future if the performance is the same as what its replacing (DSL)? And I'm not even talking about the new problems that come with wireless (interference, etc). How does LTE handle wireless congestion? I certainly don't think it will do as good of a job as a wired facility, but I am not a network engineer, so I don't really know.

One more point is that AT&T (and other cell providers) are aggressive cappers, saying that caps are needed to reduce congestion. LTE is going to be the same story I think.

If consumers are willing to pay for "significant wired services", including those that are "better than ours", then someone will install them.

If they aren't, it won't happen.

...

Hard to create a wired fiber network from scratch if incumbents are willing to go to great lengths to sue you down to the ground before you even start, don't you think?
--
Physics: Will you break the laws of physics, or will the laws of physics break you?
If physicists stand on each other's shoulders, computer scientists stand on each other's toes, and computer programmers dig each other's graves.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

You mean suing to prevent potentially unfair competition from a government entity?
Sammer

join:2005-12-22
Canonsburg, PA

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

said by openbox9:

You mean suing to prevent potentially unfair competition from a government entity?

How is it unfair competition when the incumbent phone company is unwilling to provide the service?
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

Where is the incumbent not providing service that municipalities, or any private entity for that matter, have been sued and prevented from deploying infrastructure.

More importantly, I was clarifying a333 See Profile's post that lawsuits have been against municipalities not just anyone that wishes to compete.
WernerSchutz

join:2009-08-04
Sugar Land, TX
"If consumers are willing to pay for "significant wired services", including those that are "better than ours", then someone will install them."

DEFINITELY. I will pay $50 for symmetrical 100 Mbps with no caps as in South Korea and Japan.

Spare me the population density argument and explain why NYC does not have it.
cramer
Premium
join:2007-04-10
Raleigh, NC
kudos:9

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

*cough*unions*cough*

(also, politics, land owners, etc.)
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2
Come to Japan with it's relatively high cost of living. It's a double edged sword when people want to claim how low cost broadband can be in country X. Sure, you can pay $50/mth for 100 Mbps connections, but that residence that you're living in will cost you several thousands of dollars. Add in obscene utility costs and the expensive food, and it's not necessarily such a great deal any longer.
elray

join:2000-12-16
Santa Monica, CA
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·EarthLink
said by WernerSchutz:

"If consumers are willing to pay for "significant wired services", including those that are "better than ours", then someone will install them."

DEFINITELY. I will pay $50 for symmetrical 100 Mbps with no caps as in South Korea and Japan.

Spare me the population density argument and explain why NYC does not have it.

You don't represent the majority of consumers, who are disinterested or unwilling to pay $70+/month for FTTH, which is the current bar. If Sonic, Surewest, Verizon, Google and others *can* offer your 100M symmetrical for $50 in NYC, not just a few cherry-picked towns, they will, and more people will subscribe, and this debate will be over. But the last-mile simply isn't that cheap.

NYC is not South Korea or Japan.
Uncle Sam doesn't own telco, nor should they.

jap
Premium
join:2003-08-10
038xx
said by WernerSchutz:

Spare me the population density argument and explain why NYC does not have it.

Because S.Korea decided early that everyone would need/want broadband so rather than commercialize the infrastructure they built only one. Infra is public property, all services running on it are private/competitively operated. At least that's what I read somewhere on the interwebs. Needs verification.

Socialism = bad,bad,bad.
WernerSchutz

join:2009-08-04
Sugar Land, TX

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

said by jap:

said by WernerSchutz:

Spare me the population density argument and explain why NYC does not have it.

Because S.Korea decided early that everyone would need/want broadband so rather than commercialize the infrastructure they built only one. Infra is public property, all services running on it are private/competitively operated. At least that's what I read somewhere on the interwebs. Needs verification.

Socialism = bad,bad,bad.

While corporatism = good

jap
Premium
join:2003-08-10
038xx

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

said by WernerSchutz:

While corporatism = good

Correct. All things Corps do is what's best for patriotic Corporatists like you and me. Everyone else is evil. Korea, the Nordic countries, these heathen US cities, and now some African countries. Sure they have cheap, reliable, fast service where all VoIP and vid services compete on a level field but at what cost to their souls? I'd rather pay $140 for proprietary symmetrical and go to heaven than let the devil's socialism touch my bits.
cramer
Premium
join:2007-04-10
Raleigh, NC
kudos:9

1 recommendation

If consumers are willing to pay for "significant wired services", including those that are "better than ours", then someone will install them.

That's the thing, you can't! Municipal networks were buried in red tape, and outlawed. Totally private investment in fiber networks have met with exactly the same battles -- the *monopolies* already there don't want the competition; even in markets they don't want to serve, they don't want anyone else going "behind their back".

Wireless is *not* the future; wireless has numerous problems wired networks do not have and never will. Wireless cannot match the performance of wired networks, side by side. Wireless, even the mythical "fixed-LTE", will never be the preferred option when a wired connection is available. They want to drive people to the inferior experience at significantly higher costs (more profit for them) by making sure you have no fallback. If you think wireless is so great, tether your house to your cellphone and use NOTHING ELSE for a month -- you'll scream uncle in under a week. Your speed will be randomly unpredictable and slow, with much higher latency, and your bill will be insane.

Yes, the old twisted copper pair PSTN wired network has been a dead horse for decades. One simply cannot get the speeds needed for modern networking over the distances needed -- hence the Uverse "VRAD every half mile" deployment plan... that only works in high density areas, which is why they are so hot on dropping their "old" POTS network / low density, rural areas. They're the incumbant require by law to maintain that infrastructure right now. They would VERY much like to abandon that "cost center" for the much more profitable (in every way) high density areas. Mark my words, they take away that law and vast portions of the country will be left out in the cold with no landline services and slow, spotty cell coverage, if any at all. (and they *still* fight tooth and nail to keep anyone else from filling the void.)
MrBungle87

join:2013-01-18
Durham, NC
Reviews:
·Frontier Communi..
·Time Warner Cable

1 recommendation

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

This is the truth. Monopolies don't want competition because they want MORE money--not because they want to 'innovate'. Sticking rural customers on shitty, slow wireless is not innovative, nor is it fixing the very fundamental problems we have in American broadband (much of which is so slow, it can't rightly be called broadband).

Municipal ISPs are the way of the future. Wilson, North Carolina has their own FTTP/FTTH network called Greenlight which offers up to 100/100Mbit for about $180 a month. And Time Warner fought it TOOTH AND NAIL. Time Warner also lines politicians' pockets in the state legislature to keep their chokehold on much of the NC market. I realize some of you more radical libertarians who believe in ZERO government intervention, ever, are put off by the idea that the government has to regulate the broadband industry to some degree, but it needs to happen. Meaningful regulation and actual competition. We need an FCC that stands up to cable monopolies rather than a guy like Genachowski asking for gigabit fiber in every city by 2015.

jfleni

@bhn.net
Past subsidies were intended to pay for upgraded lines, which now always means fiber-optic technology to homes & businesses, not the barf-bag setup of fiber to the ditch that AT&T uses now. Boucher is like any other thieving, lying plutocrat: GIMME!, then shut your eyes, 'til I finally retire with my loot! But in the meantime, a pox on you bubba; you shoulda knowed what would happen down there in the Old Dominion when you voted for me.
openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2

Re: Long ago past subsidies irrelevant

said by jfleni :

Past subsidies were intended to pay for upgraded lines

Why do you suggest that? Subsidies are for here and now. If you want future, then sign a contract agreeing to such terms.

linicx
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2002-12-03
United State
Reviews:
·TracFone Wireless
·CenturyLink

Why do we even talk about deregulation?

It is a waste of time as AT&T and the other service provider giants only play by their own rules. Whining to FCC does nothing except get their name in trade magazines and forums.

Factually the territory phone, cable and Internet providers use was divvied up years ago when telco and cable pulled out of small and medium markets from coast to coast.

What is left is a cacophony of noisy whiners and 150,000,000 homes in rural America with very poor service. "The highest quality we can give you is 1.5/.500." Translation: We don't care about you or your poor service. We care about the money we will make by providing 100Gbps to London and Paris. We are very happy to help our partners, and pray for the day we no longer have to be bothered by insignificant customers like you and everyone else who lives in rural America.

Learn your lessons well now. AT&T was whining about the same thing in 1997. Only then it was about not wanting to sharing local rural phone lines with other long distance carriers like Sprint. In one town they shut Sprint out for a year. I lived it. After that Sprint became a cell phone provider.
--
Mac: No windows, No Gates, Apple inside

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

Get rid of basic service

I think the phone companies should be allowed to ditch basic telephone service (local only calling, long distance extra) and offer more modern plans that allow for unlimited flat rate local and long distance calling. The cost of voice traffic these days is so cheap that it is no longer necessary to charge for long distance. And people who have metered long distance are probably paying more than if they move to a flat rate plan.

linicx
Caveat Emptor
Premium
join:2002-12-03
United State

Re: Get rid of basic service

This is not a new idea. We've had this for years. I live in an area area as rural as Iowa.
--
Mac: No windows, No Gates, Apple inside
albundyhere

join:2000-10-26
New York, NY

Political-Corporate Bribery at its best

why is this guy not in federal prison?
old_wiz_60

join:2005-06-03
Bedford, MA

Re: Political-Corporate Bribery at its best

because they know very well how to sneak around the laws.