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OTI Pushes FCC for Interconnection Conditions on AT&T-DirecTV

New America's Open Technology Institute (OTI) has reiterated to the FCC its request for interconnection conditions on the AT&T-DirecTV merger, arguing that M-Lab's recently released Internet Health Test network diagnostic data show AT&T as the worst performer in terms of "patterns of degradation" at interconnection points.

"AT&T has already demonstrated its ability to degrade broadband access during negotiations with transit providers and edge services; the acquisition of a major video distribution business would substantially increase AT&T’s incentive to engage in such conduct," OTI told FCC staffers earlier this week.

OTI wants the Federal Communications Commission to require AT&T to interconnect on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms and wants AT&T to voluntarily forego any interconnection fees. It also wants the FCC to require periodic disclosure of interconnection practices.

An OTI spokesperson said that it was not opposed to all interconnection fees, but did oppose those "that are used to pay for upgrades to AT&T's last mile, or fees that are pure 'access fees.'"

The FCC has yet to restart the informal shot clock on the AT&T-DirecTV merger. It is widely believed to be focused on possible interconnection conditions, among others, and may want to get those ducks in a row before restarting the clock, which is on day 170 of a 180-day target.

AT&T was filing a response to the OTI pitch Thursday (June 25), saying the issue was unrelated to the transaction, and that OTI was flat-out wrong.

"In its latest filing, OTI falsely claims that Internet speed data from Measurement Lab (“M-Lab”) show that AT&T has caused congestion at its interconnections with other ISPs and transit providers that can only be remedied by regulating interconnection rates," AT&T said.

AT&T said the interconnection marketplace is working, citing its recent deals with Level 3 and Cogent, as well as a third that was redacted, so is not yet public knowledge.

"AT&T remains open to negotiating with any similarly situated provider and reaching similar commercial agreements that properly align the incentives of all parties for the benefit of end users," the company said.

The telco also pointed out that the FCC had shown a preference for marketplace solutions in its new Open Internet order, saying, "It would be premature to adopt prescriptive rules to address any problems that have arisen or may arise.” Instead, the FCC said it would use a case-by-case complaint process, which AT&T said should be sufficient, with no deal conditions needed or "appropriate."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.