AT&T Still Pouting About Title II, Continues Bogus Fiber 'Investment Slowdown'
from the when in doubt, pout dept
To try and slow down growing support for Title-II based neutrality rules, AT&T last month engaged in some fairly typical pouting for the telco, insisting the company would be freezing its “GigaPower” branded fiber investments until it gets what it wants (namely wimpier rules under Section 706). Of course as we noted at the time, AT&T has already been cutting back fixed-line network investment for many years to focus on wireless, and what fiber deployments it is engaged in are predominately what I like to call “fiber to the press release” — or scattered, cherry-picked deployments dressed up to give the illusion the company is honestly and seriously competing with the likes of Google Fiber.
After the FCC’s DirecTV merger review team uncharacteristically pressed AT&T to see its math, AT&T walked back the statement slightly — insisting that the company was simply being misunderstood by the FCC. This week AT&T made it clear that no, the “we’re going to freeze investment that barely existed in the first place” argument is in fact going to be the cornerstone of its fight against Title II.
A press release by the company announced this week that it would be delivering 1 Gbps “Gigapower” connections to an unspecified number of North Carolina locals in the Winston Salem area. Like most of AT&T’s other fiber to the press release announcements, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single detail on the number of customers this deployment will reach, or any specific build locations listed. You will however find a cute little comment about how Title II will be to blame if this ambiguous deployment doesn’t wind up being very big:
“President Obama’s proposal in early November to regulate the entire Internet under rules from the 1930s designed for voice services injects significant uncertainty into the economics underlying AT&T’s investment decisions. As a result, the company has paused consideration of any fiber investments that would go beyond its DIRECTV merger-related commitments, which includes previously announced fiber plans described above, until the rules are clarified.”
In short, AT&T’s press release says it’s pausing all of its fiber investments except for the 2 million additional customers it’s promising if the government approves its $48 billion acquisition of DirecTV.
One, that actually contradicts what the company just said to the FCC in a letter — namely that its threat didn’t include the company’s 25 Gigapower geographical target markets. Two, because AT&T never actually bothered to say how many users its Gigapower upgrades would cover in the first place, it was able to pull two million of those already planned deployments aside (most affluent development communities or college campuses where fiber is already in the ground) and use them as regulator bait to get its DirecTV deal approved. It’s all part of a long-standing shell game where AT&T fiddles with the numbers to create broadband coverage gaps, then promises regulators those gaps will be filled if only it’s allowed to buy
BellSouth T-Mobile DirecTV.
It’s also worth noting that AT&T’s offerings in North Carolina are part of the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) initiative, an effort spearheaded by six municipalities and four leading research universities to create the kind of next-gen broadband networks AT&T has spent more than a decade fighting against. AT&T was one of eight companies that bid to participate in the program, and its decision to back away from the effort because of net neutrality rules largely only hurts AT&T. Similarly, you’re supposed to ignore that AT&T (with the help of Time Warner Cable) was instrumental in passing a 2011 North Carolina state law that hamstrings local town and city efforts to improve broadband in the state (something AT&T’s also busy doing in Kansas).
It’s all indicative of the kind of blistering hypocrisy AT&T is known for all over the country when it comes to better broadband. Even though Title II only really hinders ISPs engaged in bad behavior, AT&T again and again insists that these kinds of government regulations and consumer protections can only hinder broadband deployment. In reality, AT&T uses and abuses government to hinder broadband deployment on a daily basis, and it’s probably the very last company the country should be trusting when it comes to what’s best for the Internet. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to return that non-existent Bugatti I promised readers willing to say nice things about me in the comments.