AT&T tells FCC sorry, we meant to say we’re bailing on DSL, not fiber

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Under fire from the FCC, AT&T is walking back a statement by CEO Randall Stephenson that the company will stop building out fiber while common carrier regulation of broadband is on the table. With the exception, Stephenson said, of 2 million homes that were promised as part of AT&T’s bid to get regulatory approval of its purchase of DirecTv.

That statement, made at an investment conference and likely unscripted, provoked a demand from the FCC for AT&T to explain itself. Which it has now done in a lawerly letter to the commission (h/t to Omar Masry for the heads up).

The letter starts off by saying that AT&T isn’t reneging on its commitment to expand its fiber footprint in 25 metro areas, although it remains vague about what that means – it references the company’s GigaWeasel GigaPower offering, which can be and usually is copper-based and limited to 300 Mbps or slower. It then goes on to say that everything else is off the table until the uncertainty surrounding common carrier status is settled, including most particularly DSL upgrades or expansion

While we have reiterated that we will stand by the commitments described above, this uncertainty makes it prudent to pause consideration of any further investments – beyond those discussed above – to bring advanced broadband networks to even more customer locations, including additional upgrades of existing DSL and IPDSL lines, that might be feasible in the future under a more stable and predictable regulatory regime.

AT&T’s threat to hold hostage subscribers trapped with decaying copper plant should make interesting reading as the FCC considers new rules governing telcos’ efforts to scrap those networks.