$10 Internet access for low income homes is the only novel requirement of AT&T-DirecTv deal


The Federal Communications Commission released the details yesterday regarding the conditions imposed on AT&T in exchange for approving its purchase of DirecTv.

Those conditions a commitment to build out and offer fiber-to-the-premise service to 12.5 million customer locations, restrictions and reporting requirements on AT&T’s management of its Internet service business, and a discount stand-alone broadband offering for low income households which is the only major element of the deal that you could call truly new. At least for AT&T.

Details about the FTTP commitment are still very hazy, but it appears that the bulk of those customer locations will be the kinds of places that AT&T already reaches with fiber (and those locations are counted in the 12.5 million). Places like big office buildings in central business districts, where one fiber connection in the basement can serve dozens or even hundreds of customer locations. Or greenfield housing developments and big multiple dwelling unit properties where FTTP technology is cheaper to install than now-expensive old-school copper. It’s nice that AT&T is installing more fiber connections, but there’s nothing in the 241 page order and opinion that indicates that AT&T is going to do anything that it wasn’t planning to do in the first place.

The network and customer service level management practices requirements are likewise remarkably similar to the way the FCC expects Internet service providers to behave under the common carrier network neutrality rules imposed earlier this year.

The standalone low income broadband program resembles Comcast’s Internet Essentials package, which also has its roots in regulatory approval requirements: $10 a month for 5 to 10 Mbps where available, $5 per month for 3 Mbps where not. Eligibility is a little different, though. Any household with an individual who is eligible for food stamps can get the discounted deal. The plan would be available for up to five years.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.