AT&T invests in California broadband, but very selectively

12 March 2014 by Steve Blum
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Be grateful for what you have.

AT&T wants you to believe that they’re investing billions of dollars in Calfornia to upgrade your broadband service. And it’s true, if you’re the right sort of customer. Even so, reading between the lines of the latest AT&T press release, the assumption has to be that your wireline service is as good as it’s going to get for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, if you have an AT&T mobile phone account – particularly 4G – and you live in a large metro area or in a nearby medium-sized market, your speeds probably did get faster last year, and you might see more improvements as time goes on.
What AT&T did in the press release is throw together everything they’ve spent in California over the past three years to come up with the impressive sounding number of $7.1 billion. And I don’t doubt that it’s true, as far as it goes.
Where it doesn’t go is breaking out how much was spent on wireless versus wireline infrastructure or, most importantly, discuss whether AT&T plans to keep investing in California, or look for greener pastures elsewhere. One clue, though, is its list of seven “notable California network enhancements in 2013”, all of which are various flavors of cellular service upgrades.
The release talks about upgrading 331,000 customer locations to Uverse service and running fiber to 3,200 “business buildings”, with an average of 28 tenants each. That’s not so impressive when you consider that AT&T’s territory covers millions of homes and businesses in California.
You can’t say AT&T didn’t give fair warning. The company has made it clear that it’s only going to upgrade “high potential” neighborhoods and focus its investment on states and communities where it can get the most bang for its buck. If that’s not where you live, though, the $7.1 billion figure is effectively zero.