AT&T's Regulatory Hypocrisy On Proud Display In Kansas, Where It's Fighting To Keep The State A Broadband Backwater
from the do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do dept
Like any giant, pampered duopoly, AT&T claims to loathe regulation when it has even the remotest potential to hamstring anti-competitive behavior (like Title II on the net neutrality front), but is perfectly fine with it when it protects the company’s long-standing stranglehold on the United States broadband market. One of many glaring illustrations of this is in Kansas, where the company recently wrote but failed to pass SB 304, which, like nearly two dozen similar laws around the country, would prohibit towns and cities from wiring themselves for broadband — even in cases where nobody else will. From the bill:
“Sec. 4. Except with regard to unserved areas, a municipality may not, directly or indirectly offer or provide to one or more subscribers, video, telecommunications or broadband service; or purchase, lease, construct, maintain or operate any facility for the purpose of enabling a private business or entity to offer, provide, carry, or deliver video, telecommunications or broadband service to one or more subscribers.”
Like many of these bills, if you then look closer at the bill’s definition of “unserved,” you’ll find it includes very expensive and capped satellite and wireless broadband, making it incredibly hard to gain approval:
“Unserved area? means one or more contiguous census blocks within the legal boundaries of a municipality seeking to provide the unserved area with video, telecommunications or broadband service, where at least nine out of 10 households lack access to facilities-based, terrestrial broadband service, either fixed or mobile, or satellite broadband service, at the minimum broadband transmission speed as defined by the FCC.”
Facing an immensely uncompetitive duopoly between AT&T and former Washington Post run CableOne, the city of Chanute, Kansas has been looking to build a citywide fiber network capable of offering 1 Gbps speeds at around $40 per month. After defeating AT&T’s attempt to pass new regulations hamstringing the project, Chanute now finds themselves face to face with a 1947 ma-bell era law that requires companies get permission from the Kansas Corporation Commission to sell bonds to fund such telecom projects. With the KCC likely to approve the request, AT&T lawyers have jumped in to intervene, according to the Wichita Eagle:
“Any decision made by the KCC could impact AT&T?s business operations in the area, which is why we asked to intervene in the proceeding,” the company said in a written response to questions from The Eagle. ?AT&T remains interested in both broadband issues and the work of the KCC.”
As I’ve noted previously, AT&T’s also in the process of going state by state
paying asking state lawmakers to gut any and all remaining consumer protections (like laws requiring they continue offering 911 to the elderly) so it can back away from aging DSL markets it doesn’t want to upgrade. In Kansas specifically, AT&T has promised locals they’ll be awash in all manner of miracle broadband improvements, if only they eliminate the Kansas Corporation Commission?s consumer protection regulations and minimum quality-of-service standards. Well, at least the ones that apply to AT&T.
Again, just so we’re clear, this is the same company that insists that absolutely any regulatory effort to protect consumers from duopoly power is the very worst sort of government over-reach, but has absolutely no qualms about using government over-reach and regulation to make sure broadband prices remain high and service quality continues to suck.