T-Mobile CEO Attends a Meeting with Sprint Employees in Kansas

broadband, mergers

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The merging of Sprint and T-Mobile is postponed while the FCC carries out examination on the broadband wireless products offered by both cable companies. The examination is carried out to prevent issues related to antitrust occur after the merging. The FCC is just doing its job on protecting consumers from competitions. Both cable companies are to attend the evidentiary hearing set by The California Public Utilities Commission. The decision will only be revealed by June.

The 14 point review that the commission wants to conduct could stall the merging of Sprint and T-Mobile as they attempt to get fast regulatory approval. Sprint and T-Mobile has talked about merging into a single company for many months. The $26.5 billion merging was proposed in April this year. If the merging succeed, it will reduce the wireless provider to 3.

Tammera Chafee, a representative of Communication Workers of America said that they just want to make sure that John Legere promise that the merging will not affect the 4,100 jobs in the Kansas City area and that they will also do what they can to protect the 28,000 jobs that are forecast to lost after the merging. This is a big issue since Sprint is a large company in Kansas City area.

Recently, T-Mobile CEO has made a visit to Sprint Campus in Overland Park which shows that it values the presence of Sprint in the community. The Overland Park Chamber of Commerce has given his compliments on the merging. Dave Tovar, the spokesman for Sprint, told the press that Neville Ray and many others including Braxton Carter, and Sunit Patel has attended it. The meeting provides an opportunity for the T-Mobile team to introduce themselves. They also talk about how they can integrate Sprint into Bellevue. Tovar said the merging is something John Legere and Mike Sievert want to do.

During the meeting, Leger has given positive encouragement to Sprint employees on their talents. He also offer comparison between Overland Park campus and the second headquarter of Amazon. Legere has also talked with a number of Sprint employees. Some employees have posted photos of themselves with their possible new boss on Twitter. Employees can ask question through texting. The text must include the name of the employee and the location of his office. After the meeting, everyone goes outside to celebrate with music and food trucks.

T-Mobile does not have any responsibility to retain Sprint campus or meet a job quota. However, they will just try to prevent sending hundreds of workers into retrenchment. Oltjen said the intention is for the company to be strong in Washington and Kansas City area as well as to offer strong job opportunities for customers.

Comcast is the largest cable provider in the US. Comcast has provided a new wireless product last year and over 780K customers have signed up. Comcast provide its wireless services through Verizon Communications Inc. airwaves. It also offer over 19 millions Wi-Fi hotspots through Xfinity. Altice USA is also getting a query from FCC as it is involved in a deal to use Sprint’s airwaves.

FCC Broadband Definition Has Changed Before and Will Change Again

Bill Clinton Speaking.

The official FCC broadband definition is a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.

This standard was introduced by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015 as an increase to the previous standard of 4 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload. The benchmark increase was justified as necessary due to “advances in technology, market offerings by broadband providers and consumer demand.” [1]

This change was in keeping with the Obama administration’s focus on increasing telecom regulation. The Obama administration was the only administration to give the telecom industry a “failing” grade in the annual Broadband Progress Report, with Obama stating that “[t]his isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.” [2]

This change was also in keeping with 2010 FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s focus on drawing attention to the “digital divide” in rural areas, as increasing the minimum speed results in less favorable coverage statistics.

FCC Broadband Definition Over Time

Data via FCC Public Records
Date AdoptedMinimum DownloadMinimum UploadFCC Comissioner
201525 Mbps3 MbpsTom Wheeler, D
20104 Mbps1 MbpsJulius Genachowski, D
1996200 Kbps200 KbpsWilliam Kennard, D

2018 Disagreements Over FCC Broadband Definition

Ajit Pai speaking with Marco Rubio at FCC.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai faced criticism in 2017 and 2018 for his proposal of modifying broadband coverage benchmarks. Image via FCC Flickr.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai earned a shower of negative media attention in recent months for his suggestion that a mobile broadband benchmark of 10 Mbps should be sufficient to mark consumers as “served” in the semi-annual Broadband Progress Report. [3]

In his proposal, Pai cited the widespread access to high-speed mobile as potentially sufficient for basic Internet access. In the past, subscribers were only considered “served” if they had access to both 25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload wired broadband and mobile connectivity.

This would be the first-ever reduction in the FCC standard for consumers to be considered “served” with broadband Internet. However, contrary to what has been reported widely in the media, this would not be a replacement for the wired broadband 25/3 Mbps down/up standard.

…It would, however, cause the percentage of Americans considered “covered” by the FCC to jump dramatically.

In the FCC’s own words:

we propose to maintain the current speed benchmark of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (25 Mbps/3 Mbps) for fixed broadband, and we also seek comment about other potential benchmarks.

Past Broadband Benchmark Changes: Switch from 200 Kbps to 4/1 Mbps in 2010

The FCC upgraded the minimum definition for wired broadband to 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload in 2010. [4]

It’s worth noting that the only other major change in the broadband benchmark took place under Chairman Julius Genachowski of the early Obama administration.

In their 2010 Broadband Progress Report, the FCC justified changing the broadband definition as necessary to accommodate video alongside basic browsing:

It [4 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload] is the minimum speed required to stream a high-quality —even if not high-definition—video while leaving sufficient bandwidth for basic web browsing and e-mail, a common mode of broadband usage today that comports directly with section 706’s definition of advanced telecommunications capability.

Prior to the 2010 change, video streaming was widely viewed as a luxury. Considering the advancing popularity of video conferencing and remote teamwork, it’s not surprising that the FCC broadband definition would be upgraded.

Interestingly, the FCC’s own speed guidelines define the minimum speed/bandwidth needed for video conferencing as 1 Mbps.

Justification for Original FCC Broadband Definition of 200 Kbps

Bill Clinton Speaking.

Clinton-era “light touch” telecom regulation has been at the center of debates over broadband standards since 1996.
Image via Gage
Skidmore/Flickr

Broadband Progress Reports issued 1999–2009 adhered to the original broadband definition of 200 Kbps established in the Telecommunications act of 1996 — the Clinton-era order that required the regular publishing of Broadband Progress Reports in the first place.

Reports in this time period didn’t account for video as a necessity for basic service, although by 2009 the definition was well out of date for real-world users who were already getting accustomed to video platforms like YouTube (launched 2005).

The First Broadband Progress Report in 1999 justified maintaining the 200 Kbps standard with this wording:

We reaffirm that a service may have asymmetrical upstream and downstream transmission paths and still be advanced telecommunications capability as long as both paths are capable of speeds in excess of 200 kbps to the network demarcation point at the subscriber’s premises. https://transition.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Common_Carrier/Reports/fcc99005-converted.pdf

However, even before the the upgrade to a 4 Mbps benchmark, annual reports classified speed into tiers and reported individual statistics according to speed range. This method separated “basic service” from the more advanced telecommunications capacity expected in urban areas.

the Statistic Is Mightier Than the Sword

Overall, FCC Broadband Reports have been as much about the conversation they start as the data inside.

Shifting benchmarks such as the FCC broadband definition can allow an administration to create seeming favorable or non-favorable results according to the regulatory agenda of the party in power. Under Obama, changing benchmarks drew attention to the digital divide and every single report concluded that broadband was not being deployed “in a reasonable and timely fashion.”

Conservative parties tend to conclude that broadband is being deployed fast enough, and that increased scrutiny and regulation isn’t the answer to increasing competition. This can be seen in the current administration’s proposal to lower coverage standards, which would create more favorable statistics to include in future progress reports.

Regardless of which side you fall on, it’s been frustrating to see that most actual upgrades to rural networks comes either as a requirement in contested merger agreements, or from small fixed wireless providers.

This post will be updated to reflect changes in the definition of Broadband from 2018–2020.

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