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.
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Filed Under: fiber, fiber to the press release, net neutrality, open internet, title ii
Companies: at&t


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  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 1:53pm

    AT&T - The government called, wants it billions back...

    Go ahead and pout AT&T. We'll be the ones laughing when the government takes all of your infrastructure and patents away to pay back the billions that were given to you for infrastructure improvement that never happened.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 2:34pm

      Re: AT&T - The government called, wants it billions back...

      I won't hold my breath, but I do find it ironic that AT&T's actions complaining about possible Title II regulation are exhibit A on why we NEED Title II regulation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2014 @ 1:24am

        Re: Re: AT&T - The government called, wants it billions back...

        No, because AT&T have already claimed some subsidies under TII regulation. They should be forced to TII as a condition of claiming those subsidies.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 1:55pm

    so get the FCC to really get the answers they were asking for, or threaten them with some action. it's no good asking for certain information, then withdraw as soon as Comcast appears to run up the white flag! any idiot would have known what they would do and that it wouldn't last! they're typical giant corporation. how's about comcast being broken up for uncompetitive behavior like the EU wants to do with Google? that'd make them sit up and beg! there'd be lobbyists crawling out the woodwork, running around like headless chickens!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TruthHurts (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 2:03pm

      Re:

      lol - except the EU is apparently made up of a bunch of inept morons because google isn't anti-competitive and doesn't control the search industry as I've explained repeatedly.

      Google doesn't control or dominate the search industry.
      They cannot force users to use google to execute searches.

      Users control who does their searching.
      Users choose to use Google.
      Users control the search industry and who gets the most searches.
      Users want Google's results, not Bing's, not Yahoo's, or anyone else's.

      Until the folks over in the EU figure that out, they may as well be advertising to the world that they are clueless.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 2:28pm

    AT&T was broken up once. It has reassembled it's various pieces and being the monopoly it is, needs broken up again. It certainly isn't servicing the public's interest when it can come up with things like this.

    Maybe the strongest statement in favor of Title II is how all the incumbent telcos are so against it. Since it would regulate their shenanigans, price gouging, and taking advantage of the customer so blatantly, I see their objections as sterling recommendations as to why Title II should be put in place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 3:26pm

    Am I the only one that sees this more and more along the lines of "If you're not going to act like grown ups, I'll treat you like little kids who won't share"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 4:19pm

    If they ever roll out fiber here in Sacramento, I might believe that they don't break every promise they've ever made and lie every time they speak.

    Meantime I can only believe AT&T only ever acts in bad faith.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 4:28pm

    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.

    I see no contradiction: all of the broadband players with non-trivial market share are engaged in bad behavior. :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 5:22pm

    Comcast lost it when they started requiring each television in a household to have an individual box, and then later by taking payolla from Netflix. AT&T lost it when they started threatening to stop expand their fiber networks, something they were lax in doing to begin with. These two dinosaurs need to give up the ghost, and we as a people simply need to tough it out and no longer do business with them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 9 Dec 2014 @ 6:07pm

      Re:

      These two dinosaurs need to give up the ghost, and we as a people simply need to tough it out and no longer do business with them.

      It's not reasonable to approach this problem by having large swathes of the population go without internet service until it's somehow fixed. We need a better solution than that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 10:21pm

    As a result, the company has paused consideration of any fiber investments that would go beyond its DIRECTV merger-related commitments

    Nice, so lets find other companies filling the gap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lord Binky, 9 Dec 2014 @ 6:56am

    Remember!

    If AT&T disapproves, it can't be that bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 9 Dec 2014 @ 2:43pm

    The day AT&T slows down fiber investment is the day that I slow down a car with an empty fuel tank or land a grounded aeroplane.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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