AT&T recently filed a petition asking the FCC to take steps that the telecom says will facilitate the transition to an entirely IP-based network.
Among other measures, the telecom wants the agency to open an administrative proceeding that will focus on lifting some longstanding regulations on a trial basis. The telecom says that doing so will demonstrate that "conventional public-utility style regulation is no longer necessary or appropriate in the emerging all-IP ecosystem."
But advocacy group Free Press warns that granting AT&T's request could ultimately put an end to common carrier rules. "It would completely vaporize all existing oversight over what remains of our nation's communications network," says Free Press Research Director Derek Turner.
The group says in a new filing that deregulation could result in a host of problems, including lack of access and localized Internet blackouts. They reason that deregulation could mean carriers will not have to interconnect with each other.
Free Press says that the FCC shouldn't take action on AT&T's request without first revisiting broadband regulations more generally. "We strongly urge the Commission, if it is inclined to grant AT&T’s request for a new proceeding, to open a global proceeding that first addresses all of the issues surrounding the transition to next generation networks that the Commission has long neglected."
The advocacy group also points out that removing regulations over telecommunications services could ultimately undermine Net neutrality. The neutrality regulations -- which prohibit carriers from blocking traffic -- stem partly from the FCC's authority to issue rules considered "ancillary" to telecom regulations.
"If there are no longer telecommunications services subject to Title II, a major rationale for these Open Internet rules vanishes," Free Press says. "Just as we need reliable and non-discriminatory access to roads, electrical grids and transport systems to conduct commerce, so too do we need the same kind of access to two-way communications networks. ... We would not have today’s Internet if it were not for the non-discrimination obligations imposed on telecommunications carriers beginning in the 1960s."