As we noted last week
, AT&T's reaction to the President's clear support of Title II was to bluff and claim they were freezing all fiber investment to "up to" 100 cities. However if you've been around here for a while you know that AT&T's plans to deploy fiber to 100 cities was already smoke and mirrors to begin with
, and the company has actually been repeatedly slashing their fixed-line investment projections (they had just cut CAPEX by $3 billion just three days before the President's announcement).
Apparently, AT&T forgot that they were currently facing a merger review, involving people who are actually looking at hard data and not hyperbole. Jamillia Ferris, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer who is aiding the FCC in reviewing their DirecTV acquisition plans, quickly sent AT&T a letter asking the company to clearly detail its fiber investment plans
As we've noted previously, most of AT&T's "Gigapower" expansion plans have been "fiber to the press release," or showmanship designed to make very limited high-end development deployments seem more significant than they are. Each breathless AT&T announcement
comes with a lot of hype, but absolutely no specifics when it comes to the number of users who'll actually get service. Ferris basically put an end to AT&T's fun by finally demanding AT&T clarify just how much fiber they're planning to deploy.
According to the letter, Ferris wants:
(a) Data regarding the Company’s current plans for fiber deployment, specifically: (1) the current number of households to which fiber is deployed and the breakdown by technology (i.e., FTTP [fiber-to-the-premises] or FTTN [fiber-to-the-node]) and geographic area of deployment; (2) the total number of households to which the Company planned to deploy fiber prior to the Company’s decision to limit deployment to the 2 million households and the breakdown by technology and geographic area of deployment; and (3) the total number of households to which the Company currently plans to deploy fiber, including the 2 million households, and the breakdown by technology and geographic area of deployment;
(b) A description of (1) whether the AT&T FTTP Investment Model demonstrates that fiber deployment is now unprofitable; and (2) whether the fiber to the 2 million homes following acquisition of DirecTV would be unprofitable; and
(c) All documents relating to the Company’s decision to limit AT&T’s deployment of fiber to 2 million homes following the acquisition of DirecTV.
AT&T insists they're "happy" to supply all of this data, though in reality you can be sure AT&T's none-too-pleased that somebody in government finally called AT&T's bluff on this front. Until now, AT&T had managed to convince the press, public and regulators that they were engaged in a fiber to the home investment of massive scope and scale, with few noticing they were spending less on fixed-line network investment than ever before.
In response to the President's announcement this week that he unequivocally supports Title II reclassification to protect net neutrality
, AT&T has unveiled a rather amusing political ploy. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson this morning proclaimed that the company is halting investment in next-generation fiber networks until the government wimps out and backs off tougher rules to protect consumers.
AT&T is warning some customers in Vermont that an AT&T employee improperly accessed the personal information of a limited but unspecified number of AT&T customers. "We recently determined that one of our employees violated our strict privacy and security guidelines by accessing your account without authorization in August 2014, and while doing so, would have been able to view and may have obtained your account information including your social security number and driver’s license number," AT&T says in the letter
(pdf) posted to the Vermont Attorney General's website (via Threat Post
). AT&T's promising one year of free credit monitoring to impacted customers.
AT&T is running a new promotion that doubles the data allotments for Mobile Share Value Plan customers -- but only if you buy buckets of data 15 GB in size or larger. According to the AT&T announcement
, the promotion runs from yesterday, September 28, to October 31. While a limited time promotion, users who sign up for the double data allotment promo will be able to keep that usage plan for the life of the plan. "With these new double data plans, and smartphones for $0 down with AT&T Next, there’s never been a more affordable time to be with AT&T," insists the company -- even though the lion's share of users concerned about cost will be on plans significantly smaller than 15 GB per month.
ISPs have already been whining quite a bit
about the fact that the FCC wants to raise the current minimum definition of broadband from 4 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up -- to something ranging from 10 to 25 Mbps. Now AT&T and Verizon are whining about the possibility that the FCC would like to make sure bandwidth caps are considered when defining the quality of a broadband connection.
Representatives of state and local governments in Hartford, New Haven and Stamford have joined forces
to try and bring faster broadband networks to Connecticut. The collective group has issued an RFQ to promote the deployment of gigabit broadband networks and services in "targeted commercial corridors" and locations "with demonstrated demand." They've also put the call out to any additional under-served communities, who can add an addendum to the RFQ to get involved.
DSLExtreme has launched a new, faster broadband option that appears to piggyback on AT&T's U-Verse platform. According to the company announcement
, DSLExtreme's new "TrueStream" is now available in 21 states across the country, offering speeds up to 75 Mbps.
The New York Post
claims that AT&T has struck a deal with the Department of Justice that would allow AT&T's $48.5 billion plan
to acquire DirecTV to move forward. The report fails to specify what precise conditions the DOJ will place on the deal, though it does suggest that regulators are leaning toward approval with DOJ approval coming as soon as October.
AT&T has been very interested in overseas expansion, investigating possible acquisitions of Vodafone (at least the wireless assets), European carrier EE, as well as part of Spain's Telefonica SA. Unfortunately for AT&T, it's believed that their coziness with the NSA ruffled political feathers during election season
, forcing AT&T to step back earlier this year and wait. With those worries settled down, rumors have again emerged of an AT&T Vodafone bid
, though the report notes AT&T's ambitions could be challenged by a counter offer from China Mobile.
Confirming rumors from earlier this month
, AT&T has confirmed the company is getting very close to launching their version of higher-audio-quality voice over LTE service (VoLTE). According to an AT&T announcement
, AT&T's belated VoLTE implementation will launch on May 23 "in select areas" in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and "will continue to expand on a market-by-market basis." Handset support at launch is also expected to be very limited, with VoLTE only supported on the Galaxy S4 Mini at launch, "with more devices to come." AT&T had originally stated they'd hoped to launch VoLTE before the end of 2013, though like Verizon faced delays due to interoperability issues.
AT&T recently threatened to take their ball and go home
(read: not participate in the upcoming 600 MHz spectrum auction) if the government imposed rules trying to ensure that smaller competitors weren't blocked by larger carriers when it comes to grabbing valuable spectrum. After meeting with FCC officials AT&T appears to have changed their tune
, now insisting that "our desire to participate in this auction and our hope for a successful auction is unchanged."
What happened? The FCC released a few more details on the spectrum auction process, making it clear that initially, nobody will be blocked from bidding on spectrum:
When the auction reaches a “trigger” point that the Commission will set in advance of the auction – largely based on meeting a price threshold – wireless providers with a dominant low-band position in a license area will be constrained from bidding on a few “reserved” spectrum blocks.
We've discussed at length how AT&T's "IP transition" is being framed as some sort of evolutionary transition toward a "glorious all-IP future," but is really largely about AT&T gutting regulations in order to hang up on POTS and DSL users they simply don't want to upgrade
. After Verizon used Sandy as an excuse to refuse to upgrade their own unwanted POTS and DSL customers, the FCC stepped in to mandate two small IP transition trials
to help analyze what kind of problems we can expect as users are cut off from the PSTN and pushed on to wireless.
Back in June of 2010
, you might recall that a security hole in AT&T's website allowed two individuals to gain access to the e-mail addresses of 114,000 owners of 3G Apple iPads, including "dozens of CEOs, military officials, and top politicians." A group calling itself Goatse Security at the time claimed responsibility for the "hack," which in addition to e-mail addresses resulted the group obtaining user ICC-IDs -- used to identify their specific iPad on the AT&T network.
One of those two individuals responsible for obtaining the data was Andrew Auernheimer (aka "Weev") an Internet-famous troll who was recently convicted of accessing a computer without authorization and identity fraud, and sentenced to serve 41 months in prison.
As we've frequently discussed, AT&T and Verizon are in the process of going state by state gutting consumer protections on DSL and landlines in preparation of hanging up on users they don't want to upgrade. This has been pitched by the carriers as part of the "IP transition
" and states are often told by killing consumer protections they'll see better and greater networks than ever
AT&T today announced that their first "IP transition" trials as the company eyes shutting down its copper networks will occur in West Delray Beach, Florida (Kings Point) and Carbon Hill, Alabama. According to an AT&T announcement
, these locations will be the sites of multi-year trials with FCC oversight aimed at studying the impact of migrating away from copper networks and the PSTN.
It looks like that new round of AT&T U-Verse rate hikes
won't come without some
small benefits. User Darknessfall
directs our attention to the fact that AT&T appears to have boosted upstream speeds ever so slightly on several of the company's U-Verse broadband tiers. AT&T's Max Turbo U-verse tier (24 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up) now offers 5 Mbps upstream. The company's Max Plus (18 Mbps down, 1.5 Mbps up) now offers 2 Mbps upstream. According to this ongoing discussion thread in our forums
, it's unclear if any of the company's faster tiers will also be seeing upstream boosts (I've dropped a line to check).
The FCC today voted unanimously to begin conducting voluntary trials to ensure a relatively smooth and reasonable transition away from the PSTN and copper networks. The push for such trials began in earnest after Verizon refused to repair the DSL and copper POTS lines of hurricane Sandy victims, instead forcing them to instead use an inferior wireless-based product
known as VoiceLink, which doesn't work with alarm systems, has numerous glitches, and doesn't provide data connectivity.
At the same time that T-Mobile is running what's actually a pretty funny bogus press release
in several major papers mocking AT&T, AT&T is announcing a new promotion aimed at keeping customers from defecting to T-Mobile. According to the AT&T announcement
and promotion website
, AT&T is offering users a $100 credit for every new smartphone, tablet, feature phone, mobile hotspot or Wireless Home Phone line of service they add to their account. According to AT&T, the promotion runs through March 31.
As a sort of counter-point to former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps' claim that we should classify ISPs as common carriers to preserve net neutrality
, the EFF has penned a blog post
effectively arguing that the FCC really isn't going to save us from network neutrality violations because they're a broken agency in the pockets of industry. Unlock Copps, the EFF fears that giving the FCC any additional authority opens the door toward even worse rules and regulations:
In light of these threats it is tempting to reach for easy solutions.
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