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AT&T Will Detail the Fate of Its DSL Users Nov. 7
Can't Sell Them, Can't Ditch Them (Yet), What Next?
by Karl Bode 08:36AM Friday Sep 21 2012
At an investor conference this week AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says the company is still determining the fate of millions of the company's un-unpgraded DSL users. As noted previously a sale of these assets hasn't gone so well, after Verizon's sale of their DSL markets to Frontier and Fairpoint went so poorly for the acquiring companies, it put a sour taste in most smaller telco's mouths. While AT&T's lawyers and lobbyists pave the regulatory path to simply hanging up on these users, Stephenson publicly continues to insist AT&T may still upgrade them:
"We can get a good competitive broadband product to a large portion of our footprint and would avoid us having to go through a number of regulatory approval processes to sell across a large geography. There will probably be a mix of actions here, but the bottom line is we think we may have line of sight but we will flush that out on Nov. 7 in an analyst conference here in New York.”
What's going to be AT&T's solution? It's going to mirror Verizon's: keep U-Verse static, let DSL users flee to cable, shut down as much of their old POTS and DSL network as regulators let them get away with, and hope LTE (complete with $15 per gigabyte overages) fills in the gaps:
“I do believe in less dense markets and especially when you begin to think about rural America and tier two towns, that LTE can become a fixed line replacement or even better than what you can get in fixed line out in those markets. This is one of the exciting things about the WCS spectrum. It allows you to truly begin to think about investing in and doing this."
One problem is that it's estimated that LTE won't reach everywhere POTS does, leaving coverage gaps in an age where we're supposed to be eliminating them. The other major problem for AT&T is that the company has been given countless billions in taxpayer subsidies over the years, and despite AT&T's best efforts, there's still plenty of regulations in place requiring that AT&T doesn't just flee those obligations. From Stephenson's comments, it sounds like AT&T believes it will take their lobbyists about five more years to demolish those obstacles and achieve what the company calls "regulatory certainty."

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