AT&T has laid bare their plan with the FCC to hang up on the carrier's landline networks so they can focus on more profitable wireless services. In a recent filing with the FCC
(pdf), AT&T outlines their plans to "clear away the regulatory underbrush" governing the company's older landline and DSL networks. Companies like Verizon and AT&T are hanging up on DSL and landline customers, happily letting them leave for cable
so that the incumbents can focus their resources on wireless services.
(We're eager to) eliminate regulatory underbrush or superstructure that accompanies TDM-based services.
To truly be free of these resource-drains (aka million of customers they don't want) and "regulatory underbrush" (important, hard-earned consumer protections preventing consumers from being screwed) the telcos still need to kill off remaining regulation requiring that they give a damn about these customers. As Bruce Kushnick explores
, AT&T's making a power play to free their older lines from any and all rules, especially in states where AT&T has had a harder time buying political support. Notes Kushnick:
AT&T's plan is to remove all regulations and obligations and they are doing this with a trick; the Internet is an 'information service' which does not have the obligations of a 'telecommunications' service -- and they are proposing to make everything regulated as the Internet. This means that almost all of the remaining wires, networks or even the obligation to offer services over those wires and networks are all removed -- as much of this infrastructure is classified as "telecommunications". The Public Switched Telephone Networks, the utility, would suddenly be reclassified as an information service. Sayonara any telco rules, regulations and oh yes, your rights. Your service breaks... tough. Prices go up and there's no direct competition -- too bad. Networks weren't upgraded -- so what. Net Neutrality? Neutered.
It's actually a little worse than Kushnick posits, in that AT&T isn't just laying the foundation for the elimination of all rules governing existing services, but is paving the regulatory way to exit DSL and landline phone service entirely in most markets. In short, despite taking billions in subsidies over the years, AT&T is pushing to eliminate any and all rules governing these services, including rules prohibiting AT&T from simply pulling the plug on millions of customers who still need or prefer traditional dial tone services (hi grandma).
AT&T's document proclaims they're interested in shifting to an "IP ecosystem," (read: go get VoIP from your cable company) but the reality is they're looking to bail entirely on most of these markets, and wants to ensure nothing stops them:
Establish/reform rules to facilitate migration of customers from legacy to IP-based services and to prevent customers that procrastinate or fail to migrate from holding up the transition. For example, establish a process for identifying a default service provider if a customer fails to migrate, and/or permit service providers to notify customers that they will be dropped from service as of a date certain if they have not migrated to an alternative service/service provider.
As we noted recently when discussing Verizon
, there's a massive power shift at play that regulators appear to be oblivious to as AT&T and Verizon hang up on huge swaths of the nation to focus on wireless (and glorious $15 per gigabyte overages). As Verizon and AT&T stop caring about POTS and DSL users, they're effectively creating a cable monopoly, making an already uncompetitive market worse. As they pull copper from markets they're no longer required to service, they're also potentially creating significant new communications holes in an age where we're supposed to be finally eliminating them.