Friday, July 06, 2007


Is AT&T Honoring its Merger Commitments?

When the FCC approved the AT&T-BellSouth merger in the waning hours of 2006, AT&T committed not only to Network Neutrality but also to a handful of other conditions, especially (a) to offer 768 kbit DSL to new subscribers for $10 a month and (b) to offer "naked DSL," i.e. DSL without a voice plan, to people in BellSouth territory. [Official merger commitment letter from AT&T to FCC here.pdf]

Yeah right. John St. Julien at Lafayette Pro Fiber Blog had difficulty finding the $10/month plan. It was so difficult that I'd say it'd be approximately impossible for an entry-level Internet user to find it. The page he found points to the BellSouth home page, where clicking on Internet service brings up another page where $19.95 (new! lower! price!) is the cheapest plan offered. The $10/month plan is nowhere to be found! (I don't have a phone number in the BellSouth region, so I didn't explore further.)

The merger commitment specifies that the plan had to be offered. That means to me that it has to be put forth as an option!!! (If there's a fifty pound striped bass somewhere out there in the ocean, that's not an offer of fish!)

So I don't think AT&T is honoring its $10/month commitment.

Do you think the FCC will investigate?

I'm suspicious that AT&T might weasel out of its other commitments too.

It agreed to offer "naked DSL" within six months of the merger agreement -- that would be June 30, 2007, and there's no naked DSL offer from AT&T I can find today, July 6, 2007, either. The FAQ still says, "To enjoy FastAccess DSL [FastAccess is what AT&T calls all its DSL services], you'll need to have local phone service with BellSouth."

AT&T also pledged to make wireline DSL available to 85% of the households in its territory by the end of 2007. Will it, or is this yet another Kushnick?* (A Kushnick is what a Bell does when it gets a Quid for a future Pro Quo, which it doesn't ever deliver.)

AT&T has already announced that it will be developing technology to violate its pledge of Network Neutrality; this technology will police the AT&T network to keep copyrighted works such as, "music, movies and other content," off. Such technology is likely to flag such work even when it might be covered under license from copyright holders or under the Fair Use doctrine; The LA Times reports:
[AT&T Senior VP James W.] Cicconi said that once a technology was chosen, the company would look at privacy and other legal issues.
Interestingly, the AT&T Commitment on Network Neutrality is completely silent on the matter of illegal content! It simply says that AT&T won't sell
. . . any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wireline broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination . . .
to its residential customers. So blocking content that may be copyrighted would be a violation. Unless, of course, they do such blocking after the commitment expires on December 30, 2008 (a blink of a telco's eye).

Meanwhile, the $10 DSL and "naked DSL" commitments expire 30 months after AT&T begins to offer them. It might take this long to litigate what "offer" means.

So I hope I'm wrong. I hope AT&T's really offering $10 DSL now and really offering "naked DSL" now and really going to serve an honest 85% of its customers by the end of 2007. But even if I'm wrong on these, there's still AT&T's announced intent to police the content on its network. That should be illegal, period; we have 18 months to pass a law with teeth.

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Don't take this the wrong way, but didn't you KNOW this was gonna happen? That Ma Bell would follow the letter of the agreement but not the actual agreement? If you want to add teeth, then craft a bill, get a thousand or so readers to endorse it, and send it to Congress.
On the filtering: you realize that this action will deny Ma Bell of any protection under the DMCA, so if child porn gets through, Ma bell is also liable. Same with copyright violations that occur not from RIAA or MPAA but other types, like TMZ celebrity photos.
At&T committed to offer $10 DSL to "retail consumers" who have not been their previous broadband subscribers (that's on page 3 of their letter to the FCC).

My conversation with AT&T salespeople confirmed (as have a couple of other Internet news outlets) that $10 DSL is limited to BellSouth land-line customers.
ATT is offering $10 DSL. I found it by following instructions from newspaper. However the free modem the paper says you get isn't free. Go to link for "term contract plans" on ATT website for $10 DSL.
(I can't believe I am defending AT&T)
I had no problem finding the $10/month plan, once I typed my BellSouth phone number into the FastAccess DSL home page.

"DSL Lite with term agreement" came right up.

Ordered the $75 modem kit package, which came within 3 days - used it to split the DSL at the outside box using the included splitter (so no filters needed inside)

I'm very happy to be paying $10/month instead of the $45/month I paid previously for cable broadband.

By December 31, 2009 I figure there'll be plenty more choices (e.g. WiMax, city-owned broadband)

Until then I'll enjoy my $10 DSL (pre-merger I think the same speed was $30 from Bellsouth!)
the att reps are not helping customers out. i was told by one lady that i could order it over the phone. she assured me it was okay.

then i check online...24.95 != 10

the other reps have been extremely condescending or ignorant. they said a manager would call today at noon. nope.

i told them to cancel today. still no cancellation. they probably won't.

it's a disaster.
I have attempted to disconnect my wire line service and keep my DSL but have been told by ATT (ex BellSouth) that I must have cellular service with Cingular in order to do that.
The only thing that ATT will understand is FCC complaints. Everyone wanting DSL without wireline or to keep DSL without wireline should file a FFC complaint.
One Question I have is wasn't AT&T busted up in 1980 by the government? I could have swore that they were told to break apart so there could be compatition. Now 20+ years after the fact "Ma Bell" is back and stronger than ever. I think we have very dumb people in our governemnt. No strike that very greedy people.
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