No compromise as AT&T snakes more perks into California copper killer bill

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No mistaking when a copper head responds.

AT&T isn’t interested in third party improvements to the copper retirement bill it wrote and assemblyman Evan Low (D – Silicon Valley) is guiding through the California legislature. In fact, AT&T and Low want to make sure there’s no misunderstanding about assembly bill 2395’s real intentions.

An amended version was posted Monday night. It includes meaningless cosmetic changes – requiring 60 days notice to consumers before turning off service instead of 30, for example – to give the impression that AT&T is responding to growing protests about the bill.

But then AT&T added this little gem, so there’s no confusion about what it expects to get from the California legislature…

The [California Public Utilities Commission’s] duty to conduct a confirmation process [to verify alternative service is available] is pursuant to its jurisdiction over legacy service and does not grant the commission jurisdiction or control over an alternative service.

Translation: if the cell phone we give a customer can dial 911, then it’s adios CPUC and all those tiresome anti-monopoly rules. AT&T can charge whatever it wants for cell service and it doesn’t have to offer broadband at all.

AB 2395 gives AT&T a blank check to run its business as it pleases in the rural and inner city markets where it’s the only viable telecoms option. It should be able to transition from legacy analog technology to a digital Internet protocol platform in an orderly way, but that’s only one of the three presents under the AB 2395 tree.

Removing all regulatory checks on AT&T’s monopoly behavior while at the same time allowing it to strengthen that grip by replacing copper lines, which it must share, with wireless facilities, which it doesn’t, will hurt all Californians.

  • If the California legislature allows this bill to pass, the entire state is officially screwed.

  • Steven Maviglio

    More misinformation from you Steve. Clearly you have self-interest in maintaining the status quo, which fails millions of Californians who are voting with their feet and dumping the services you cling to. The “meaningless” changes are many amendments made at the request of the Utilities & Commerce Committee.

    • Karl Konnerth

      Hi Steve,
      I disagree – I’ve used two VoIP services over my Comcast cable but jitter was too high for quality voice service. And AT&T wireless signal is also too weak inside my house for quality voice. So I depend on my landline for many important business calls from my home (I’m in Sales).
      —Karl

      • Steven Maviglio

        Hi Karl: You’re comparing apples to grapefruits. First, this wouldn’t even start to happen until 2020, at which time, if history is any guide, technology will be better. The bill also requires any service to be at least as good as what your “landline” is or there will be no changes. The author here wants folks to think there will only be wireless phones available. Even the fixed Wireless internet services will have a wired phone in the wall. And of course VoIP also is a wired service.

        • Karl Konnerth

          OK, I’ll hope that Comcast gets better for voice by 2020. But even their own VoIP service performed poorly on my conference calls. It’s disappointing that both VoIP and wireless audio quality are worse than a long copper wire to my CO, but that’s the way it works for me. I also appreciate the availability in the event of ISP or power failure.

          Why do you want to see AT&T abandon their copper infrastructure?

      • Hi Karl,

        Steven is giving you bad information.

        He’s deliberately misleading people about what AB 2395 is about. AT&T can provision VoIP via wireline, fixed wireless and/or mobile wireless if it wants. The quality depends on a lot of factors, but if AB 2395 passes the only criteria for determining what level of quality is sufficient are AT&T’s monopoly business considerations. Moderating that means maintaining competitive access and regulatory oversight, which AB 2395 would scrap.

        It’s not a question of which particular technology is used, it’s a question of who decides what level of quality and reliability is sufficient: you or AT&T.

        • Steven Maviglio

          Karl, I would suggest you read the legislation. Steve is wrong, as usual. AT&T can’t do it “if they want.” They can only do it if the alternative service provided is certified to be better. The legislation does not “scrap” regulatory oversight nor competitive access. There are multiple provisions in the bill that maintain regulatory oversight, particularly tough FCC provisions that state legislation can never override.

          • Exactly, Steven. AB 2395 removes AT&T from nearly all Californian regulation. No one is suggesting that the California legislature will rewrite FCC rules, but that’s another distraction tactic on your part.

            You’re also telling a falsehood about the bill: it does not require superior service. It doesn’t even require equivalent service. It only requires “alternative” service that meets certain, minimum technical specs. And only voice service at that.

          • Steven Maviglio

            Read the bill. Learn what those service specs are. Service must be equivalent or better or NOTHING happens. Stop the misinformation, Steve. I get you oppose it, but don’t make things up.

          • It doesn’t say that. Any more than it says it must “be better”, which you’re now admitting was a false statement on your part. The technical specs are independent of any comparison to existing service.

          • Steven Maviglio

            Again, since apparently you’re incapable of reading the bill, here it is for you. As it is clear, the alternative service must meet the commission’s requirements and if they don’t, consumers have recourse… “The bill would require the commission to confirm that the replacement service has specified elements. Upon completion of these steps, but no sooner than January 1, 2020, the bill would authorize a telephone corporation to elect to discontinue legacy telephone service upon providing not less than 90-days’ notice to the affected customers and to the commission, as specified. The bill would authorize a customer of the telephone corporation, within 30 60 days after receipt of the notice of withdrawal of legacy voice service service, to request in writing that the commission review the availability of the alternative service at the customer’s location. The bill would require the commission to review and resolve the customer’s request within 60 days of receipt of the request. The bill would authorize the commission, if it determines after investigation that no alternative service is available to that customer at the customer’s location, to order the withdrawing telephone corporation to provide voice service to the customer for a period no longer than 12 months after withdrawal. If an order to continue to provide voice service to a customer is issued, the bill would require the commission to evaluate whether an alternative service has become available for the customer during the period the order is in effect and if an alternative service meeting specified requirements does not become available, would authorize require the commission to order the withdrawing telephone corporation to continue to provide voice service to the affected customer until an alternative service is available at the customer’s location.”

          • Are you getting paid by the word?

            All that says is that there be “alternative service” that meets “specified requirements”, which you some how failed to copy and paste too. The “specified requirements” make no comparative reference to existing service. It just has to meet minimum standards.

          • Steven Maviglio

            Congratulations, you found the bill. Now tell the truth about it. The standards do not allow any reduction in quality or service and you know it.

          • Yes, I found the bill in the link on the original post above. If you looked there, you might have saved your clients some money.

            Under the terms of the bill, “alternative service” might or might not be better than what’s currently in place. The standards are independent. And, such standards as there are only apply to voice service. Broadband is completely ignored.

          • Steven Maviglio

            READ THE BILL. c) Upon receipt of the notice to withdraw, the commission shall confirm that the alternative service has all of the following elements:

            (1) Voice grade access to the public switched telephone network or its successor.

            (2) Real-time, two-way voice communications.

            (3) Access for end users of those services to the local emergency telephone systems described in the Warren-911-Emergency Assistance Act (Article 6 (commencing with Section 53100) of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government Code), and where available, enhanced 911 access.

            (4) Alternative services requiring a residential power supply to operate are in compliance with the backup-battery capability standards established by the Federal Communications Commission.

          • Exactly. Nothing in there about “better” or “equivalent” service. Voice service just has to meet minimal specs. It has to provide service which allows phone calls on the PSTN at “voice grade”, which is a term of art which is a very low hurdle, and be able to make/receive 911 calls. And meet federal standards, which it will have to do regardless of what the California legislature does.

            A level of service that meets those minimum might be better or worse than what’s available now. The bill doesn’t speak to that.

            And again, nothing about broadband.

          • Steven Maviglio

            These standards are not
            minimal”; they are what exists. By default, everything will be better because it will building on this. And that’s exactly the point: it’s hard to do better with the existing system from generations ago. That’s why tech companies are all for this legislation. They want to offer more, better services. Your false information about service degrading is nowhere to be found in the legislation.

          • Duh. Of course the legislation doesn’t say service could get worse. It doesn’t say that it has to be better, or even as good either. You are correct, POTS generally meets those minimal standards. In many cases, it exceeds those minimal standards. The bill doesn’t require “alternative service” to be as good as current POTS service, just that it meet the same minimums POTS has meet.

            The alternative might be better or might be worse. Either is possible, as the bill is currently written.

          • Steven Maviglio

            Again, read the bill. From the analysis: “For example, if a telephone corporation removes POTS but the alternative service available is a wireless option, but the customer’s service area has bad wireless reception, arguably this is not an alternative service option. In addition, if the alternative service option available is a service that is bundled with additional features at a cost much higher than the stand alone POTS cost, it is arguable that is also not an alternative service option.”

          • The analysis is not the bill. Yes, it’s arguable either way. That’s my point. Arguably better, arguably worse.

          • Steven Maviglio

            There’s nothing that allows it to be worse. Nothing. Nada. You’re making that up because the standards you cite are current standards, and they can’t fall behind that. So perhaps even if anyone believes you, the Chicken Little, Sky Will Fall rhetoric you’ve been publishing is bogus since you’ve finally admitted service could be better, which is the point of the legislation.

          • You’re spinning now, Steven. Alternative service can’t be worse than current minimums, but that’s as good as it needs to be. Current service might – probably is – better than minimums. So the alternative service could well be worse than current service. And it could be better – I’ve been saying that right along, BTW – but that’s not in the bill as written.

            And again, it’s completely silent on broadband.

          • Steven Maviglio

            The best spin is the truth, which you seem to be having a hard time doing, whether it be your false (and unproven) claims about the authorship or the bill or what the future will bring with legislation whose clear intention (and language) is to provide more Californians with more technology and better services.

          • Very artful choice of words, I’m impressed. We’ve already beaten the “authorship” versus “written by” dead horse, so no need to revisit that. Otherwise, what you say certainly tracks with what AT&T is saying – no surprise – and maybe even with what it intends. If those good intentions were actually written into the bill, it would be a different story.

          • Steven Maviglio

            Not surprising…another evasion. No evidence of your “written by” or whatever you want to call it. I’m saying what the overwhelming majority of Californians are doing: leaving the old fashioned past for more and better services and quality.

          • We’ve discussed the evidence, you don’t accept it, that’s fine.

            Otherwise, you are making my point. The overwhelming majority of Californians – 95%, according to the CPUC – live in urban areas, and the overwhelming majority of those (but not all) benefit from AT&T’s and, now, Frontier’s investments in a competitive market.

            For the remaining 5% in rural areas and the relatively few (but not relatively unimportant) people in urban areas without the market power to draw that kind attention, it’s a different story. For them, AB 2395 removes both competition and regulation. Account for that – the Verizon solution is one way to do that – and you’d have a workable bill.

    • Personally, I don’t cling to POTS and have no self interest in maintaining it — I haven’t had a POTS line in many years. I do have an interest in maintaining a wireline connection to my house, but since I’m fortunate to live in a town where AT&T deems its return on investment sufficiently high to maintain its infrastructure and there’s a cable alternative, I’m not worried about that.

      But that’s beside the point, as you know. There’s virtually no dispute about the need to move from analog to digital technology for voice service. There are disagreements about some of the details, but all those problems are solvable, if people want to solve them.

      You’re repeating AT&T’s false pitch that AB 2395 is about by focusing on the POTS issue and trying to divert attention from the wireline exit and regulatory escape elements. Those are also solvable if there’s sufficient good will to do so, but so far that’s lacking. At least on AT&T’s part.

      The amendments made to the bill were meaningless in terms of addressing wireline exit, and doubled down on the regulatory escape. In terms of POTS, the amendments were minor — extending deadlines by a month here and a month there, additional process with no change to the result, that sort of thing. Purely cosmetic to make some of the members of committee look like bad asses.

      On the other hand, let’s talk about your self interest: you’re a paid lobbyist with a professed speciality in social media. I’m flattered that my humble blog rates your attention. Thanks!

  • Steven Maviglio

    Well Steve, as usual, facts always get in the way of your false information that you use public resources to disseminate. I’m not a paid lobbyist. Never have been. Never will be. I have, however, spent my life working in public policy, so perhaps it is my expertise in this area is what troubles you. Your focus on AT&T is a bit obsessive, given this would simply not apply just to them. You might want to spend some time looking at the marketplace, where 85% of customers ALREADY have dropped their POTS service and at least one company (Verizon) exited within the existing regulatory framework.

    • I use lobbyist in the sense of “paid political operative”, you’re using it in the strict legal sense. I’ll accept your definition, though. It’s paid political operative, then.

      What public resources am I using? I’m paying for this website. More misinformation, I suppose.

      Re: AT&T – it’s AT&T that wrote AB 2395 and is paying for the campaign to get it passed. No other ILEC in California has AT&T’s interest in exiting the copper wireline business. It’s about AT&T.

      And BTW, 85% of the market has not dropped POTS. Perhaps 85% of POTS lines have been dropped – I doubt that figure, but it could be true – but that includes a ton of second lines. Yes, email has replaced fax.

      You are absolutely correct about Verizon exiting the California wireline market via existing regulatory means. No reason AT&T couldn’t do it the same way. That’s my point.

      • Steven Maviglio

        Again, Steve, facts don’t seem to be concern to you, do they? Here’s your blog that you cross post on several public sites: http://escrbconsortium.org/blog/

        Actually, AT&T didn’t write AB 2395. Assemblymember Evan Low did. And it’s support by disability groups, the Congress of California Seniors, the El Dorado Fire Chief and a broad swatch of rural and urban supporters, not to mention tech groups. But I guess, according to your logic, these public safety and disadvantaged community groups all are wrong, while those self-interested in the status quo — like you — are correct.

        • Any number of organisations use content from this blog. That’s their choice. Any number of organisations support AB 2395 too. That’s their choice. Low is the author, which as you know is a term of art, not a literal description. The bill was written by AT&T.

          • Steven Maviglio

            Again, not true. But your broken record of misinformation doesn’t seem to be interrupted by facts. Can you provide the evidence that AT&T “wrote” the legislation. The Leg Counsel writes it, the committee that approved it, amended it significantly, and it is supported by a broad coalition.

          • Go back and listen to the A&UC hearing, for one. But no one is disputing that AT&T wrote the original bill, which was then passed on to Leg Counsel. Amendments made so far have been cosmetic.

          • Steven Maviglio

            I was there Steve. Again, where is your proof that AT&T wrote the bill. I’m still waiting.

          • Wait all you like. The genesis of the bill was thoroughly discussed at that hearing.

          • Steven Maviglio

            In other words, you have no evidence of such. Just as I thought.

          • LOL. Keep on thinking, Steven.

          • Steven Maviglio

            I guess that’s my concern about the misinformation you publish. Your opinion is not based on any facts. Perhaps you would put some thinking into what you write for a change. You might actually gain some credibility that way.

          • You’re getting argumentative now, Steven. AT&T wrote the bill and gave it to Low’s office. I notice you’re not denying that, and it was brought out at the hearing. But if it gets you billable hours to harp on it, have at it.

          • Steven Maviglio

            I’m trying to get the evidence you have in making your claim. That was not brought out at the hearing (I watched) other than the same charge you are making without any evidence to back it up. Again, the evidence to back up your charge? The statement by Mr. Low or AT&T? Anything at all?

          • Steven Maviglio

            Interesting when Mr. Blum is asked for evidence of his claim he clams up. Because there is no evidence for his claims.

  • I’ve been reading the responses between Mr. Blum, Mr. Maviglio and Mr. Konnerth and I’m sorry to say that all evidence points to what this site, Karl Bode of http://www.dslreports.com, and Phillip Dampier of http://www.stopthecap.com have documented and reported time and time again that AT&T (and Verizon) wants OUT entirely of the fixed wireline business.
    It is fact that has been well documented and reported and the way that these companies have been lobbying for that to happen is having model bills authored by these companies have written to our legislatures across the country using a secret group called the American Legislative Exchange Council also known as ALEC.

    Also, AT&T just recently has successfully lobbied to stop municipal broadband in the state of Tennessee EVEN if their service is lousy, sub-par, and very expensive. Let me also tell you Mr. Maviglio as FORMER AT&T customer of 7 years my last mile DSL went from $25.00 a month to $84.00 on the last two bills before I told them to go to hell. Did I also mention that AT&T also has implemented “usage-based billing” with a cap of 150 gigabytes per month on that sub-par connection which never reached 6 megs by the way, with a charge of $10 for every 50 gigs a subscriber goes over.
    Also, AT&T’s website is so badly designed, difficult to navigate and their so called “usage meter” was inaccessible 95% of the time.

    And during the 7 years I was a customer I would call up and ask when AT&T is going to bring U-verse to my area and each time they told me they have no plans to expand that service.

    Just curious : how many will take before those supporters of ISPs ripping off people finally spill over when you cannot justify this form of extortion over wireline?

    How much longer are we going to continue tolerating this bullshit from ISPs

    1. Metered broadband,

    2. data caps,

    3. high prices for very low unreliable speeds,

    4. dropped connections,

    5. forced modem rentals,

    6. no option to use alternative hardware,

    7. proprietary hardware,

    8. monopolies,

    9. duopolies,

    10. the banning of municipal broadband,

    11. protectionist laws designed to keep competition out such as google fiber,

    12. the taking of taxpayers funds to supposedly help underserved areas,

    13. CEOs salaries in the millions versus badly neglected networks

    Am I missing anything else?

    How much of this bullshit do we need to continue to put up with before we finally as a collective say we have had enough of?

    People like you enrage me. You have a lot of nerve to come to a site like this and try to lecture me with misinformation about these sneaky bills a wealthy telecom giant tries to get passed which undermine a swath of the population as somehow being good.
    AT&T, Comcast and other scumbag ISPs have figured out why spend any money to provide broadband everywhere when its much cheaper and cost effective to bribe local officials to write protectionist laws and stop any others from bringing better services to unserved or underserved communities.

    Take a look at this :

    »www.huffingtonpost.com/b ··· 590.html

    This second article details that the phone companies have manipulated the accounting of lines-in-service to only include a small subset, specifically, basic POTS, plain old telephone service lines, while leaving out that the majority are business broadband and data lines, known as “special access”. Special access are also the wires used to connect the WiFi hot spots and cell sites as almost all wireless selfies or videos end up on one of these wires.

    In fact, in 2015, the FCC found that special access services was a $40 billion market — but listed zero access lines. :

    »www.huffingtonpost.com/b ··· 592.html

    »www.huffingtonpost.com/b ··· 370.html

    These three articles show how Verizon wants to shut off these lines that are very critical to communications infrastructure not just voice, but actually data, alarm systems, banking, ATMS, POS systems…ect using the excuse that no one uses them as landlines anymore.

    AT&T has been announcing to the press about fiber deployments, YET Notice that nowhere in any article mentions locations or who ACTUALLY has fiber. Uh-huh. I have a bridge to sell you too.

    Here’s a question for your boss Randall Stephenson :

    How’s that $65 billion Direct TV acquisition working out for you?
    Or that data caps scheme you decided to impose on your customers to create value?
    Or how about that bill you sponsored in Sacramento California where you want your company to walk away from last mile wireline and force people on your sub par wireless expensive capped service that is inferior and cannot deliver streaming services forget 4K?
    And by the way, where is that gigapower you constantly tell the media about but not many people have?

    The California PUC may not allow AT&T to shut off the legacy copper, but AT&T could come back and say “we will sell it”

    and look at the potential buyers : CenturyLink, Fairpoint, Frontier, Windstream

    and then there are the smaller ones : Sonic, DSL Extreme, Toast and maybe Earthlink

    OR AT&T could spin off its entire wireline into a separate company altogether (from AT&T wireless) and sell it by chunks or as a whole. Plenty of scenarios of how this could play out.

    An AT&T CWA employee told me that AT&T is fed up dealing with last mile wireline customers. He is made it very clear to me that they do NOT want the last mile wireline anymore and by 2020 all of it will be sold off. So IT IS happening. I’m hoping it is Frontier or Windstream.

    CenturyLink is still dealing with issues associated with the acquisitions of Embark and Qwest. Fairpoint is in talks of a possible sale or buyout OR they could grow with more acquisitions.

    »www.wsj.com/articles/fro ··· 23431602

    Look at Connecticut for example. It is well known that AT&T (as well as Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobil) still serves that state with cellular wireless service despite AT&T’s sale of their entire wireline operations to Frontier. Former Frontier CEO Maggie Wilderotter has publicly stated that she and Randall Stephenson negotiated that deal years ago before finally closing at the end of 2014. So the possibility of another deal like this is not far fetched. Remember, Frontier wants these networks because they know that wireless is not a substitute for wireline.

    Wilderotter and now the current Frontier CEO Dan McCarthy have also said that AT&T and Verizon are their biggest customers. The MA Bell giants pay Frontier (and other fixed telecom/broadband providers) to use their network as middle mile and backhaul to deliver services.

    Stephenson may not have a choice as public officials may force him to sell off the unwanted wireline as a condition of his desire to want a full wireless network at least here in California. The man is many things but one he is not is stupid. Stephenson knows that these copper assets are still worth a lot of money. It would not make financial sense for AT&T to simply shut off the unwanted copper and still hold onto the properties while paying taxes for them. That also does not reflect well on any company’s balance sheet. Either you convert the assets to utilize for something else or transfer them to another company that will make use of them. In these two scenarios either way you come out making a profit. That makes sense even from a business standpoint.

    Wait for AT&T to have a big expense from a merger or buying a huge amount of spectrum and they will use Frontier like a “purchase eraser” on a credit card so that they can hide the effect that this has on earnings. Wall Street Analysts fall for it every time, or maybe they think that everyone who lives in an underserved area should move to San Francisco. Frontier wins from this too because they can momentarily look like they aren’t bleeding customers to death by buying a fresh crop of them.

    How ironic as there’s another spectrum auction coming up. This is NO coincidence.

    Wireless is not and will never be a substitute for wireline. With the rise of more IOT devices and streaming video, there is simply no way that wireless can handle those demands. We need wireline, Period.

    • Good summary, Joe. There’s little doubt AT&T wants out of the wireline business, at least the less profitable parts of it. If they’re willing to sell it to company that is interested, it would be good for everyone, including AT&T. Just replacing copper with wireless, though, is a permanent step backwards.

      • Exactly Steve. From a business standpoint, it does not make financial sense to simply turn off the copper while still holding on to the properties. And again remember, Frontier is not a competitor to AT&T and Verizon. They are in fact business partners.
        And by Mr. Maviglio’s own admission, AT&T is not going to abandon the copper. They are handing it over to somebody else.

        Let’s also look at what Frontier is doing. Besides the massive three state acquisition the company is busy digesting, Frontier is building a middle mile fiber network in several key areas they serve and using the copper as the last mile to their customers. Dan McCarthy has stated they are upgrading to VDSL and implementing new technologies as they come which is hinting to G.fast.

        On a side note, a fellow telecom tech refers to AT&T, Verizon, Frontier, CenturyLink, Windstream and the other companies as “copper zombies” which i think is harsh because I see the smaller telecoms making decisions the giants were unwilling to do. I see the smaller telecoms as “copper Frankensteins” because they built themselves out of the acquisitions of other companies. Correct me if I’m wrong hehehe.

  • Sean McLaughlin

    Thanks for helping to raise awareness about this profiteering power grab .. helpful to engage AT&T’s shill in comments and gather perspective ..