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Public Knowledge, AT&T Weigh in With Hill on IP Trials

Public Knowledge and AT&T agree on five touchstones for the IP transition but disagree on AT&T's suggested trials, according to testimony for an Oct. 23 House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the transition.

Harold Feld, senior VP of Public Knowledge, delineated those values in his testimony as follows: service to all americans, interconnection and competition, consumer protection, reliability, and public safety. Feld adds that AT&T's suggested IP transition trials should be rejected.

However, AT&T countered Feld's statement, saying the FCC should expedite those "real world tests."

Feld will tell the legislators that test trials are needed, but they must be guided by those values and they should not be the trials AT&T has offered up.

AT&T has proposed geographic trials of the IP switchover, including not simply grafting old regs onto the new regime. But Feld says it is not "AT&T's transition" but the whole phone system, and that the FCC should be the central coordinator of the IP switch.

The FCC did not immediately accept the AT&T trial offer, which Feld says is as it should be, though it did launch a process for coming up with IP transition trials.

"If this were an NSF [National Science Foundation] Grant Proposal, AT&T’s ‘proposal’ would boil down to “give me a billion dollars and I will do some cool stuff,” he says.

He does give AT&T kudos for launching the debate, but that is about all.

"Although AT&T deserves credit for beginning the dialog on this transition in a comprehensive way, this is not 'AT&T’s transition.' This is not a negotiation with AT&T, or with ILECs generally, or between ILECs and CLECs. This is the transition of the phone system of the United States, and responsibility for its success or failure lies with all of us."

AT&T obviously sees it differently, but it gives Feld credit too. In his prepared testimony AT&T senior VP James Cicconi complimented Feld on "identifying the key consumer protections needed for a successful IP transition. We may end up differing on details," he said, "but their framework is sound. Clearly the fundamental principles of universal connectivity, interconnection, consumer protection, reliability and public safety are hallmarks of our Nation’s commitment to communications and cannot be lost in this process."

Cicconi says its trials offer "clear benefits" with no costs and says AT&T is not looking for the IP world to be a regulation-free zone.

"We understand that there will be a set of core consumer protections that exist," he said. "While I might disagree with the FCC on particular matters, I would concede readily the FCC can play a strong role in protecting consumers, and it has demonstrated that in recent years. Public safety should fall within the FCC’s consumer protection mandate as well."