AT&T Accuses FCC of Favouring Smaller Carriers

by Matt Klassen on October 15, 2015

AT&T feels targeted by the Federal Communications Commission; picked on by regulators who are seemingly enforcing a double-standard when it comes to Ma Bell and agency rules. In a letter sent last week to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the company accused the agency of moving slowly to approve a waiver for Wi-Fi calling, a feature now found on Apple’s new iOS 9, and one AT&T hoped to launch in September to take advantage of it.

According to the FCC, the feature does not meet the FCC standards regarding accessibility for speech and hearing-impaired people, thus the waiver, which would have allowed AT&T to operate this feature without the necessary TTY services in place, was rejected.

But here’s the rub: According to AT&T, smaller competitors T-Mobile and Sprint have both been offering a Wi-Fi calling service for more than a year, both without having the necessary waiver at all and thus both in violation of federal regulations. While those competitors operate without any repercussions, AT&T is stymied at every turn, now feeling that the FCC is unjustifiably attempting to create more competition in the wireless market.

It should be noted that this battle takes place alongside a separate proceeding regarding the use of teletypewriter (TTY) technology, as AT&T is itself trying to create a viable, more modern alterative, called “real time text” (RTT). The only problem, though, is the RTT service is still in being debated by regulators, hence the need to apply for a waiver so AT&T could offer the Wi-Fi calling feature without RTT in place.

Simply put, with AT&T watching its competitors rollout Wi-Fi calling services on Android and iOS devices, with neither Sprint nor T-Mobile ever applying for the waiver, it feels it is being held to a double-standard, as the FCC is allowing smaller competitors to bend the rules, while hitting the larger companies with fines and penalties whenever possible.

“There is growing concern at AT&T that there is an asymmetry in the application of federal regulations to AT&T on the one hand and its marketplace competitors on the other hand,” Jim Cicconi, head of legislative affairs for AT&T, wrote in the letter. “This situation simply adds fuel to the fire.”

This, of course, follows the FCC slapping AT&T with the largest fine in telecom history, $100 million for misleading network management practices that violated the newly instituted Net Neutrality rules.

Now AT&T has promised not to offer its Wi-Fi calling feature until the waiver is approved, but the company’s anger is obvious. “We are not in a position to provide Wi-Fi calling services to our customers even while our competitors provide those services in defiance of the commission’s rules,” Cicconi wrote.

For its part, T-Mobile released a statement saying that it’s “in full compliance with the FCC rules.” Sprint declined to comment.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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