Verizon and AT&T want to get out of maintaining or upgrading the tens of millions of DSL users so they can focus on wireless, a move that makes obvious business sense from their perspectives. Verizon Wireless isn't unionized, so Verizon gets rid of union headaches. Wireless services are less regulated, so carriers can get rid of consumer protections. Wireless is easier to install, cheaper to maintain, and the companies make oodles more money by charging users $15 per gigabyte.
The problem? The move leaves tens of millions of DSL and plain-old-telephone (POTS) users in a pinch. Hanging up on these users gives cable a huge monopoly on fixed line broadband
, and forces DSL users to pay much more money for heavily capped LTE services ($15 per gigabyte). That's assuming those DSL users will have additional options when AT&T and Verizon cuts the cord.
Higher prices, worse service, and increased monopoly power in a sector already known for limited competition isn't going to be a good outcome for many of these markets. AT&T and Verizon's plan is one of the most significant shifts in telecom in the last thirty years, and it's somehow flying under the radar among tech news outlets.
To make this shift possible both AT&T and Verizon are going state by state, bull rushing politicians, hoping none of them will think about any of the deeper issues raised by this migration. State political Luddites have been easily duped for years by a quick handshake and some telco cash, and this effort appears to be no exception. An AT&T-written bill is speeding through the Kentucky state legislative system
as is a similar bill in Kansas
, where despite the fact it guts nearly all consumer protections it has sped through the Kasnsas House 118 to 1 without real debate of any kind:
A 2006 state law deregulated prices for bundles of services that included wireless, Internet access, cable TV or other video and moved toward deregulating rates for local service in exchanges where competition existed. A 2011 law went further, allowing companies to avoid most state price caps. This year’s bill would allow those companies to avoid even the Kansas Corporation Commission’s consumer protection regulations and minimum quality-of-service standards.
Like Kentucky, AT&T sold politicians on the idea by arguing that the shift to wireless requires "modernized" regulations, intentionally ignoring essentially all of the finer details. The bills, as is now status quo, provide AT&T with absolutely everything it wants, while Kansas consumers see less competition and higher prices for data. Despite the fact you'd be hard pressed historically
to find any instance where deregulating AT&T didn't hurt consumers, the same story, mouthed by the usual folks, appears to be replaying itself ad infinitum.