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AT&T takes your questions on broadband Internet policy

Hank Hultquist, AT&T's federal regulatory vice president, will take your questions on broadband and the Universal Service Fund.

Ma Bell, the company that brought you the phone, dial-up Internet, wireless services and broadband Internet, wants changes to the $8 billion federal fund that brings phone lines to rural areas. AT&T, along with other major telecom and cable companies, wants to see that fund incorporate broadband connections in its subsidies. It is also one of the biggest recipients of the fund today. AT&T has 16 million broadband customers and 90.1 million wireless subscribers.

So send in questions for Mr. Hultquist by Friday morning to the comments section of this blog or to my e-mail address: kangc@washpost.com. We'll include as many of your questions as possible and post the Q&A early next week.

By Cecilia Kang  |  July 29, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Broadband  
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Comments

Hank, many users desire to receive Internet service from a provider other than the local ILEC. Yet, many of the proposed amendments to the USF regulations and legislation include language that assume that broadband comes only from a ubiquitous monopoly. They refer to "service areas" (even though providers' coverage areas aren't the same) and suggest that providers receiving funding might have a duty to provide service to all comers, even if facilities or spectrum aren't available to that provider in that particular area. AT&T is an ILEC in some areas, but in others it is also a competitive provider that could be harmed by such provisions. How would you amend the laws and regulations to prevent them from assuming, or locking in, a monopoly?

Posted by: LBrettGlass | July 29, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Hultquist,

Shouldn't those broadband Internet users (consumers or big businesses), who use the most bandwidth and benefit the most from faster more ubiquitous broadband, contribute relatively more to the Universal Service fund than those consumers and businesses that use much less bandwidth? Isn't that the basic fairness principle that has long undergirded the current Universal Service fund, which is based on long distance usage/minutes?

Scott Cleland
Chairman, NetCompetition.org an eforum supported by broadband interests

Posted by: scottcleland1 | July 29, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Hultquist,

AT&T recently imposed usage limits on its wireless smartphone data customers and concluded trials of limiting consumer use of AT&T's broadband services with usage caps in Beaumont, Texas and Reno, Nevada.

The wireless usage caps are so low as to make consumers think twice about using AT&T's wireless services, which already faces challenging ratings from consumer magazines like Consumer Reports. Why should a consumer choose AT&T for limited wireless service when Sprint and Verizon offers unlimited access to Smartphone users?

For your DSL and U-verse customers, how can AT&T justify testing usage limits when your costs to deliver broadband service are declining? Consumers overwhelmingly oppose these kinds of pricing plans and in countries where they do exist, public officials are pressing providers to eliminate them, and many ISPs are moving back towards flat-rate service in response.

Is rationing usage or charging even higher prices for access in spirit with broadband reform, especially considering our declining ranking in global broadband?

Phillip Dampier, a consumer without ties to any broadband interests

Posted by: dampier | July 29, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

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