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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Filed Under: broadband, broadband investment, lawsuits, net neutrality
Companies: at&t

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  1. icon
    Karl Bode (profile), 19 May 2015 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You beat me to it. The AT&T that was is a far cry from the AT&T that is. The most creativity coming out of the new AT&T is usually on the lobbying or public relations fronts.

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