Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge has some incredibly insightful analysis on the proposed purchase of T-Mobile by of AT&T.
The $39 billion deal would effectively reduce the number of national wireless broadband service providers to three (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint – and as a Sprint customer, why do I have a feeling this development will f*ck me, too?).
Brodsky’s piece catalogs the immense amount of backstage preparation AT&T accomplished to sow the seeds of government approval for the buyout. However, he also touches on one implication of this deal that deserves more attention: it’s “the one issue that never seems to go away – Net Neutrality.”
Last December, the FCC adopted new “rules” that were (ostensibly) designed to (weakly) address the threat of data discrimination by those who own our broadband “pipes” (to quote a former AT&T executive).
The rules created an artificial distinction between wired and wireless broadband provision: wireless broadband was “exempted” from net neutrality “rules” in order to engender more “competition” in this arena. With oligopolistic behavior on the increase in the wireless world, this is unlikely to actually happen.
Which is a shame: smartphones and tablets are nice, but they are not yet direct replacements for the “traditional” computer – and fiber-optic connectivity still tops all other broadband vectors in speed and capacity. Unfortunately, since fiber is “wired” broadband, and subject to tepid “regulation,” telecom companies are investing in spectrum – where the profit potential of broadband provision appears much greater, and where there’s no meaningful restrictions on data discrimination.
“In a rational world,” writes Brodsky, “there is no way this deal should go through. But don’t bet against AT&T to pull it off. This is not a rational world.”