CTIA’s Beta Tests App For Responding to Policy Issues On Our Bandwidth Caps White Paper.April 23, 2012
Every now and then, somebody responds to something we did or said with such an inappropriate bullet point that we can only laugh. These often read like someone tried to use some application for picking key words and matching to bullet points, but the App is clearly still in Beta.
The response of CTIA-The Wireless Association to our White Paper on Usage Based Pricing, aka bandwidth caps, surpases even these usual whacko responses. It ought to win some kind of prize. Perhaps the “Please Check your Magic Eight Ball Again” Award, given for a response that not only demonstrates that you failed to look at the executive summary and conclusion, but actually confuses people who did.
For those just tuning in, we issued a 55+ page white paper by respected academics and practitioners going through the justifications given for usage based pricing (UBP) mechanisms such as bandwidth caps, noting where these justifications appear suspicious, and raising a number of overall concerns that aggressive UBP/bandwidth caps could replace investment in networks by carriers and could reduce the ability of developers to provide new, useful and innovative (albeit high-bandiwdth) applications. I grant this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those of us in policy land I would hope that adjectives such as “thoughtful” and “thorough” (or perhaps “wonky”) would flow — even from those disagreeing with our overall conclusion that providers should be more transparent in their bandwidth cap policies.
But why read even the executive summary and conclusions when you can just shake the old Magic 8 Ball? Imagine my surprise to to see CTIA, in an email with the subject: “Response to Free Press on data caps,” CTIA sent a blast email attributing the following to Jot Carpenter:
“This is a perfect example of how groups like Public Knowledge operate under the flawed view that networks should be free, ignoring that they are actually built and maintained through significant and ongoing investments by wireless and other broadband providers. They also pay little attention to the need to ensure that the data consumption patterns of a few do not impact the ability for the other users to have a high-quality broadband experience. If Public Knowledge’s misguided view prevails, the result will be a reduction in the investment that has made the U.S. wireless industry the world’s leader in the deployment of 4G services.”
CTIA later sent a correction that they were responding to us, not Free Press (which sent a letter to the Senate on the same subject), but declined to correct the above statement to reflect any actual reading of our White Paper. A pity, since if anyone at CTIA had bothered to read the thing they would have noticed that no one wants anything for free and that our “misguided view” is that companies ought to provide more transparency around their pricing.
CTIA could stand to learn a lesson or two from its members. I have often engaged AT&T, Verizon and other CTIA members in genuine debate on issues such as this. A pity decided to rely nstead on the Magic Eight Ball. Perhaps I should ask again later, after they have a chance to read the white paper.
About Harold Feld
Harold Feld is Public Knowledge’s Senior Vice President and author of “The Case for the Digital Platform Act,” (Public Knowledge & Roosevelt Institute 2019) a guide on what government can do to preserve competition and empower individual users in the huge swath of our economy now referred to as “Big Tech.” Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler described this book as, “[...] a tour de force of the issues raised by the digital economy and internet capitalism.” For more than 20 years, Feld has practiced law at the intersection of technology, broadband, and media policy in both the private sector and in the public interest community. Feld has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a law degree from Boston University, and clerked for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Feld also writes “Tales of the Sausage Factory,” a progressive blog on media and telecom policy. In 2007, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin praised him and his blog for “[doing] a lot of great work helping people understand how FCC decisions affect people and communities on the ground.”