[UPDATE, 15Nov14: Ars Technica and the FCC call bullshit on AT&T too: FCC calls AT&T’s fiber bluff, demands detailed construction plans. AT&T claims net neutrality forced it to “pause” fiber builds it never started. The FCC team reviewing AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirectTV has asked AT&T to detail its current FTTH deployment (approximately zero homes — DI), its planned FTTH deployment, and the impact of the announced pause on those plans. AT&T’s fiber plans impact its ability to deliver video, so they bear on the DirectTV deal. The FCC asked for answers by November 21; don’t hold your breath.]
Today’s headline in Reuters and the Washington Post says,
AT&T to pause fiber investment until net neutrality rules are decided
The body of the short article says essentially nothing. Here it is:
(Reuters) – AT&T (T.N) will pause investments to bring fiber connections to 100 cities until U.S. regulators iron out rules to regulate how Internet service providers manage their Web traffic, the company’s chief executive told investors at a conference on Wednesday.
“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed,” said Randall Stephenson.
“We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules would look like,” he added.
First, if uncertainty of AT&T’s investment were the problem, it would have made this announcement sooner, for example, when the FCC first leaked its “commercially reasonable” fast-lanes-ok proposal, or, later when the FCC released its hybrid 706/Title 2 proposal. Both of these had substantially more uncertain outcomes than a pure Title 2 approach.
Second, fiber deployment to 100 cities — if indeed AT&T’s announced intent is more than just “fiber to the press release” — is a huge effort that will take years, perhaps a decade. Thus any effect of a pause won’t be felt — except in the press and resulting political pressure — for years. Why would AT&T pause for a month or two now if the effect would be to move fiber-based service cutover from e.g., July 2017 to September 2017?
Third, if AT&T is threatening to get out of the business of deploying a fiber network altogether, why doesn’t it just come clean and say so!
Fourth, AT&T was quick to announce a fiber to the home project in Austin TX right after Google announced its own Austin project. Is AT&T now going to cede this point of pride to Google after just a few months?
Give me a break, AT&T. You are blowing noxious PR smoke.