AT&T Stops Pouting Over Net Neutrality, Backs Off Network Investment 'Freeze' That Never Was

from the you-are-painfully-transparent dept

That broadband investment will suffer because of net neutrality has been the rallying cry of the broadband industry for much of the last year, despite the fact that hard evidence and public executive statements repeatedly show this claim to be nonsense. You might recall that back when the President issued his surprise support of Title II-based net neutrality rules last November, AT&T responded in typical AT&T fashion: by pouting. The company quickly proclaimed it would be taking its ball and going home, “freezing” the company’s plans to deploy fiber to the home to up to 100 cities nationwide:

“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed…We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules would look like,” added the CEO.”

Of course, as we noted at the time, this 100-city deployment claim was a ridiculous bluff to begin with; AT&T was simply offering gigabit speeds to a limited number of housing developments where fiber already exists, then dressing it up as a massive deployment to save face in the Google Fiber age (aka “fiber to the press release”). In reality, AT&T’s been cutting fixed-line investment hand over fist for years, and had announced yet another $3 billion fixed-line CAPEX investment cut just three days before announcing its supposed “investment freeze.” In other words, it was all political theater.

And it wasn’t even good political theater. When the FCC pressed AT&T to show hard numbers, the company had to notably walk back its claims in a highly-redacted filing. AT&T effectively admitted the entire thing was basically a bluff, and the company’s plans to offer gigabit service to a few high-end housing developments was absolutely unchanged by net neutrality.

So it’s pretty amusing to see AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson ignore this entire backstory and proudly announce this week that the company will be formally unfreezing the network investment freeze that never was as it pushes regulators to sign off on its $49 billion acquisition of DirecTV:

“We have seen the way the rules came out, … and as we read those rules we do believe they are subject to modification by the courts” or by Congress, Stephenson said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “So we’ve said we’re going to invest around $18 billion this year. That will allow us to deploy a wireless broadband solution to 13 million homes around the U.S.,” he said. “That compares to about $22 billion last year.”

Basically, Stephenson’s pretending that the broadband industry’s just so damn confident it will be victorious in court, AT&T’s going to boldly shake off reservations and sally forth with network investment. Of course Stephenson knows the press won’t notice or care he’s conflating wireless and wired network investment (when his original freeze claim was clearly regarding wired), overall investment is still dropping, AT&T’s actually hanging up on millions of DSL users it no longer wants all over the country, or the fact that AT&T already admitted in filings the entire argument was a fraud in the first place. With a press too lazy to fact check him, Stephenson still conveniently trots out the investment bogeyman when convenient, even after AT&T’s admitted such worries are little more than factually-unsupported, politically useful phantoms.

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Companies: at&t

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Comments on “AT&T Stops Pouting Over Net Neutrality, Backs Off Network Investment 'Freeze' That Never Was”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Broadband Suffering

Broadband already demonstrably suffers from LACK of net neutrality. And lack of effective competition.

So how could net neutrality make it any worse?

In a situation where you are the only broadband provider in town, how could net neutrality make things any worse? ISP’s are already supposed to route my packets to and from me. The source and destination of those packets (eg Netflix) should be irrelevant. Charge me for how much bandwidth I use. Make the cost of bandwidth clear for all to see. Netflix already pays at their end for the bandwidth they use. There is no reason in the 21st century why a reasonably priced broadband service cannot support one or more simultaneous video streams. If it can’t then you aren’t upgrading your infrastructure. You need to charge enough to build the infrastructure that customers are willing to pay for.

TheResidentSkeptic says:

Why are they whining again?

$18B for 13M connections – looks like $1384.61 per drop; with they way they price it, there will be $100/month “over costs” (never say profit – they are as rare in Telco’s as they are in Hollywood accounting) so they will have a total re-pay in 14 months followed by decades of massive cash flow.

What’s the problem with doing this again?

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