AT&T is making an about-face on its threat to cancel investing in a fiber network that would enable ultra-fast Internet speeds in 100 cities all over the country.
The earlier announcement came after being pressed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for details on its fiber investments.
In a Nov. 25 letter to FCC secretary Marlene H. Dortsch, AT&T senior vice president for federal regulatory Robert W. Quinn says the FCC was incorrect in saying that AT&T will be limiting its deployment of "fiber-to-the-premises" to two million homes. He also says the company is committed to bringing its 1-Gigabit broadband Internet to the 25 major metropolitan areas included as part of an ongoing bid to acquire satellite service provider DirecTV for $49 billion.
"AT&T still plans to complete the major initiative we announced in April to expand our ultra-fast GigaPower fiber network in 25 major metropolitan areas nationwide, including 21 new major metropolitan areas," Quinn says (pdf). "In addition, as AT&T has described to the Commission in this proceeding, the synergies created by our DirecTV transaction will allow us to extend our GigaPower service to at least 2 million additional customer locations, beyond those announced in April, within four years after close."
The FCC requested an explanation from AT&T shortly after AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson announced at a Wells Fargo conference held on Nov. 12 that AT&T will be halting its fiber deployment, a statement that many believe is a retaliation at President Barack Obama who publicly voiced out his support for the re-classification of Internet service providers as utilities.
"We can't go out and just invest that kind of money deploying fiber in 100 cities other than these two million not knowing under what rules that investment will be govern[ed]," Stephenson said at the time.
He was pointing to an announcement made in April, when AT&T promised to build fiber optic cable networks to deliver 1Gbps Internet to 100 cities and municipalities in the U.S., including 21 new major metropolitan areas.
Now, the company claims it never made the threat to halt its ongoing fiber deployment. What it will discontinue, however, are any future projects for expanding beyond the 25 metropolitan areas it is currently working on. This means 75 other areas that were set to receive fiber deployment will not have AT&T's ultra-fast Internet as promised.
Quinn cites the uncertainty over the net neutrality rules being developed by the FCC as the reason why the company has decided to "pause" its investments on GigaPower and its existing DSL and IPDSL lines.
"AT&T simply cannot evaluate additional investment beyond its existing commitments until the regulatory treatment of broadband service is clarified," Quinn says.