The net neutrality debate sparked (most recently) by Google and Verizon earlier this week continues. Now AT&T has weighed in, and unsurprisingly it appears to agree with the companies.
One of the biggest controversies of the Google/Verizon policy proposal is that wireless is being treated differently. AT&T says, "Wireless is different." In a post on the company's public policy blog, they write:
Data traffic on wireless networks continues to explode. And this is not only being driven by the ever-increasing use of smartphones. The per unit sales of wirelessly enabled portable devices (think netbooks, E-books, E-tablets and navigation devices) is expected to grow from approximately 6M in 2008 to 86M in 2014. It’s not surprising that mobile broadband data traffic is on a similar trajectory. The 90,000 terabytes of traffic per month that was carried on wireless networks in 2009 will mushroom to 3,600,000 TBs/month by 2014.
Pitted against this insatiable demand are wireless networks of finite and shared resources. Wireless networks simply cannot provide the same amount of capacity as wireline networks (i.e., DSL and cable). Fiber is to a wireline network what spectrum is to a wireless network, and as a transmission medium, the two simply do not compare. The theoretical top speed of a LTE carrier is 100 Mbps. By contrast, theoretical transmission speeds on fiber can reach as high as 25,000,000 Mbps. The 5 extra zeros tell the story.
We are constantly striving to increase the efficiency of our spectrum resources, but the amount of available spectrum in any given market is finite. And while we regularly split cell sectors and add additional cell towers, there are very real limits placed on cell site construction by zoning and local approval boards.
AT&T says its doing its part by accelerating network efficiencies through network upgrades, capitalizing on complementary network infrastructure like WiFi and microcells, and deploying more cell sites while adding capacity to backhaul facilities.
The company also says that policymakers can help by reallocating more spectrum for CMRS use, and protecting wireless broadband networks from "onerous new net neutrality regulations". AT&T says that's vital to the growth of the industry.