Rural broadband needs are low and highly confidential, AT&T says

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AT&T knows what rural broadband customers need. And it’s not nearly as much as what people living in high potential urban and suburban communities need, according to arguments AT&T and DirecTv are making to the FCC, in support of their proposed merger

Within its wireline footprint, AT&T will extend its ultra-fast, fiber-to-the-premises (“FTTP”) GigaPower wireline broadband service with speeds of up to 1 Gbps to at least 2 million locations. At the same time, in rural, often underserved areas, AT&T will deploy fixed wireless local loop (“WLL”) broadband to an additional 13 million locations. Designed to perform as well as wireline broadband services advertised today at speeds of 15-20 Mbps, fixed WLL represents the nation’s best opportunity to begin bridging the growing digital divide between urban areas, which enjoy a rich variety of high-speed broadband options, and rural communities with few, if any, choices.

There’s a wee gap between “up to 1 Gbps” and “advertised today at speeds of 15-20 Mbps”. Or maybe not – neither claim actually promises to deliver anything in particular. But that’s okay, because AT&T has figured it all out, telling the FCC “the fixed WLL service will be offered with a usage allowance high enough to satisfy most customers’ needs”. How does it know? Well, it’s a secret…

AT&T currently expects the product to be offered with a usage allowance high enough to readily satisfy most customers’ needs, [BEGIN AT&T HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION] [END AT&T HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION] To determine an appropriate usage allowance that would meet the needs of most customers, [BEGIN AT&T HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION] [END AT&T HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION]

WLL delivers broadband service via mobile spectrum and cell sites, using fixed antennae and terminals at subscribers’ homes. Pricing, speeds and data caps are determined by the physics and economics of mobile infrastructure. That’s as good as it’ll get for rural customers, when AT&T cuts the cord.