El Dorado was the county of gold, now it struggles to keep AT&T's copper

6 May 2016 by Steve Blum
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Putting it in, or taking it out?

Rural counties in California are lining up against a plan to allow AT&T to replace rural and inner city wireline networks with wireless service. The board of supervisors in El Dorado County voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday to send a formal letter opposing assembly bill 2395 to its author Evan Low (D – Silicon Valley) and members of the appropriations committee, which are next in line to say yes or no to it, likely later this month.

Low didn’t actually write the bill. AT&T did, and it shows. The bill grants blanket permission to end wireline service in areas that don’t offer a profit margin that AT&T deems sufficiently high. There’s a lot of gravely worded text about 30 days notice here and 12 months grace periods there, but that’s window dressing. Once AT&T runs out the clock, it can do whatever it pleases.

The company claims it will never do anything to harm rural and inner city communities. The problem is that there is nothing preventing it doing so, if the current version of AB 2395 passes, and there’s no trust that it won’t, as El Dorado supervisor Shiva Frentzen told AT&T’s rather condescending lobbyist at Tuesday’s meeting…

Trust is something that you earn. It’s built over time. We have a rural county each constituent, all your consumers, pay into the infrastructure, but we don’t see the high speed coming to the rural parts of the county because it does not pencil out. For larger companies to bring the service in those areas – the infrastructure costs a lot and the monthly service does not pay for it. So that is the experience we’ve had with larger providers like yourself…we have not had the trust and the positive experience for our rural county, so that’s why we are where we are.

The facts on the ground in California’s Gold Country back up Frentzen’s words – check out the Eldo Telecom Blog if you want the whole story in four part harmony. It’s the same facts found in county after county in rural California, and in urban areas where populations are dense but cash flow is thin.

AT&T should be able to upgrade its technology and pursue its own interests. Californians should be able to rely on their elected representatives to protect their interests.