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AT&T U-verse Expansion: It’s Over; AT&T’s Rural Broadband Solution? “We Don’t Have One”

Phillip Dampier February 8, 2012 AT&T, Community Networks, Consumer News, Rural Broadband 23 Comments

AT&T’s vision for 21st century broadband will not extend beyond the 30 million homes that can or will soon be able to access the company’s fiber-to-the-neighborhood service U-verse.

Speaking on an investor’s conference call to discuss 4th quarter earnings results, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson announced the expansion of its fiber to the neighborhood service is now effectively over.

“Our U-verse build is now largely complete, so we have in place an IP video and broadband platform that reaches 30 million customer locations, which gives us significant headroom now to drive penetration,” Stephenson said.

In practical terms, Stephenson’s announcement means AT&T will continue work on building its U-verse platform in cities where the service is already available, but other areas are unlikely to see an introduction to the service anytime soon.  AT&T President John Stark originally envisioned U-verse for 30 million homes and that vision remains unchanged today.

AT&T’s news for its rural customers is worse.  The company admits it has run out of ideas how to provide rural broadband to its landline customers.

“We have been apprehensive on moving, doing anything on rural access lines because the issue here is, do you have a broadband product for rural America?,” Stephenson said. “And we’ve all been trying to find a broadband solution that was economically viable to get out to rural America and we’re not finding one to be quite candid.”

If you can buy it at any price

Stephenson was hoping LTE 4G wireless service could provide a rural broadband solution, a central theme in AT&T’s lobbying campaign for a buyout of T-Mobile, since abandoned.

“That having been set aside, now we’re looking at rural America and asking, what’s the broadband solution? We don’t have one right now,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson earlier told a July meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners that DSL, the most common form of broadband in rural America, was “obsolete.”

The two announcements immediately raised questions in South Carolina and Georgia where AT&T and other telecommunications companies are fiercely lobbying for restrictions on community-owned broadband.

Broadband advocates in both states are wondering why the company is spending money trying to stop other broadband projects while not spending on building better broadband service in those areas themselves.

Currently there are 23 comments on this Article:

  1. Fred Pilot says:

    AT&T’s news for its rural customers is worse. The company admits it has run out of ideas how to provide rural broadband to its landline customers.

    “We have been apprehensive on moving, doing anything on rural access lines because the issue here is, do you have a broadband product for rural America?,” Stephenson said. “And we’ve all been trying to find a broadband solution that was economically viable to get out to rural America and we’re not finding one to be quite candid.”
    —————-
    This is why community and cooperatively owned and operated infrastructure is needed in this areas to provide a more economical solution than investor-owned networks.

    • anthony says:

      I’m gonna call horse crap on that. AT&T has not tried everthing. Out in my area (78002) they ran a fiber line just for 4G. I’ve been asking for DSL for 12 years now and just got it. Yeah my speed sucks, but the wireless is great. There is fiber all out in my rural area. Even the railroad has fiber up and down the track. Its all about how much money. Hey, I got about $200 dollars to shell out a month for UVERSE. To you what, I’ll even let you set you infrastructure on my property. Just bring UVERSE to my area. Or maybe I should get TIME WARNER OR VERIZON!

    • Wanda says:

      I was told when we moved into our home in 2006, that ATT would be switching all of the Bell South Customers and would be offering them broadband internet, tv service and phone lines. Let me tell you first about my phone, if it is dead, I have to take an old plug in phone to the back of my house, open a box and see if I can get a dial tone before I call for service (you are thinking of Green Acres by now?) then we can’t get tv service here, so we have to pay for direct tv, and we can’t get internet service, other than DIAL UP (WHAT????), so I have Verizon Mi-Fi. I hate to tell you how much all of this costs me each month, just to have a minimum of services, I can’t get an unlimited data plan. One mile on either side of my house has all of ATT’s services! There are at least 8 houses that are in this dead zone. Come on ATT, Keep your word and get us modern up to date services here! I live in York, SC. If you are unwilling to do this, heck let Comporium have us.

      • South Carolina has been a broadband backwater outside of big cities like Columbia for years. Time Warner is the dominant cable operator, but again only in larger communities.

        AT&T has been breaking its promises to the customers it serves for decades now. You are exactly right — when AT&T advocated for approval of its merger-buyout of BellSouth, the company made grandiose promises of a broadband rich, fiber optic future for its customers. As soon as it got approval, it broke those promises with no repercussions.

        AT&T’s attitude is that rural customers are simply not profitable enough to serve, although the company has a new scheme that advocates disconnecting your landline permanently and leaving you using AT&T’s top-dollar wireless network for both voice calls and Internet use. With a draconian limit on how much you can browse each month. How generous of them.

        Even worse, your state government, effectively in the pockets of AT&T lobbyists who generously contribute to their campaigns, passed a law this year that banned communities from taking control of broadband and building their own public networks in areas where private providers like AT&T are simply not interested in providing service.

        You can thank the Republicans for that one, because they believe only private companies should be providing broadband, even when those companies have no interest in doing so.

        Broadband is quickly becoming a utility like power, gas, and water. If a private provider refused to deliver service, our country has a long history of municipalities and resident owned co-ops picking up that ball and running with it.

        I’d let your state elected officials know their support for AT&T’s agenda is contrary to your personal interests as a voter, and you’ll remember them at the next election.

  2. Scott says:

    Thank you AT&T.. for once a honest quote we can reference in the future against your lobbyist paid for campaigns to stop community owned broadband projects from providing high-speed affordable broadband to the communities you have no plans and no intention of ever serving..

  3. Matt says:

    Fixed wireless providers (WISPs) all over the country have a simple message for AT&T: “Don’t worry bro, we got this”

    Visit the map at http://www.wispdirectory.com, find a WISP servicing your community and get away from the bad telcos.

    • Scott says:

      and who do consumers turn to to get away from metered low cap and high priced WISP’s?

      • Matt says:

        If they don’t like the broadband options that are available, they can start their own WISP. That is how most WISPs started out anyway!

      • Smith6612 says:

        Not all WISPs cost a fortune, or cap or throttle. It’s only those WISPs who didn’t plan ahead or who are buying bandwidth bulk from an incumbent who is overcharging. If a person is lucky enough to live in those areas where the WISP is also not overloaded, I’d imagine it’d work great.

        If not, AT&T should start considering making use of what Fiber is available in rural areas and placing pole-mounted DSLAMs if at all possible. A lot of rural places out where I am have at least a few stands of fiber handy on streets. DSL can reach for a good amount of distance so it’s worth the shot, especially when they can be powered from the CO itself.

      • dave says:

        idk i think for the 10 mgs that i have for 39.99 for wifi is actually pretty cheep. not to mention its 10 mgs not 2/3 like most provides give do to they are only required to give you 70% of what they are selling you (in iowa anyways). windstream claims they have 12 but its 70/ mo. and you can get it here they also claim their lost speed is 3 mgs but all you can get here is 1.5. no fap no throttling nothing just wide open 10 mgs all you can use.

  4. ScottA says:

    Thank Mr Obama.
    AT&T planned to provide HS to all rural customers via Fixed LTE to the home. The Blocked TMO acquisition is what ended this.

    • Scott, that would have never happened. Let’s understand why:

      1. T-Mobile’s infrastructure AT&T claimed it wanted to use to improve rural service is almost entirely focused on urban city centers, not rural areas. In the entire state of West Virginia, for example, T-Mobile’s only cell towers inside the state were for the benefit of travelers in western Virginia.

      T-Mobile’s network relies entirely on roaming agreements in rural areas and smaller communities with other carriers. Therefore, AT&T can’t roll out rural service over T-Mobile infrastructure that simply does not exist.

      2. Fixed LTE service is now being provided by Verizon Wireless, which didn’t need a merger deal to deliver it. Its Home Fusion service is testing in several markets right now. But it’s hardly a home broadband replacement. It costs $60 and is usage capped at just 10GB a month. If you were stuck with satellite “fraudband” before, this might serve as a modest improvement, but that usage cap and price tag still leaves rural America at a broadband disadvantage.

      3. AT&T, to this day, is still advocating an end to universal landline service in rural America. What does it promise instead? Rural cell/data service. So absolutely nothing has changed, except America’s fourth and most price-aggressive wireless carrier T-Mobile, still stands on its own.

      What this merger was really all about was picking off T-Mobile and putting their aggressive pricing out of the market. All of the other carriers have had to respond whenever T-Mobile undercuts them, and removing TMO as a competitive player in the market assures AT&T would not have to match those prices and plans.

      If anything, we need more competition in the wireless space, not less. AT&T’s attempts to takeover T-Mobile was nothing less than a naked, anti-competition power grab. Your wallet will appreciate the merger failed more than you may realize right now.

      We are fighting for better broadband for rural America. We believe it will best come from allowing local community’s to build and run their own broadband systems, offering enhancements to local phone companies to build out DSL and other technologies, and support wireless broadband where appropriate. AT&T itself admitted it has no solution to the rural broadband problem, and is now openly talking about selling off/abandoning their own existing rural DSL customers outside of U-verse service areas.

      AT&T is so interested in rural American broadband it wants out of the business completely. So I’m not sure why anyone would look to this company to solve rural American broadband challenges.

      • Fred Pilot says:

        I believe the reference to “rural America” is not an entirely accurate descriptor. Many areas that have incomplete wireline Internet infrastructure are not in rural areas. They can be found anywhere. One of the biggest indicators is the frequent complaint that a premises just down the road or even on the same street has wireline access but an adjacent one does not.

  5. ScottA says:

    I am sure there is a possibility that AT&T and Verizon will continue their builds at some point in the future when the economy improves. The economy is bad and it doesn’t make a ton of economic sense to pour money into a service which isn’t a necessity . I have been waiting for Uverse for the past 3 years and I am out of luck now. I knew my options before I moved and I could have chosen to move somewhere less rural but I am happy where I am and wouldn’t change a thing. I just need to wait a bit longer.

    • Greg says:

      I was in your shoes a few years ago. There was nothing but dial-up in my area. No cable, no DSL, nothing. Then suddenly, although it was 10 years later, at&t ran Uverse to our area. We were the first in the county to get the service. Why us, I have no clue, because we are rural. Closest city is 10 miles way. Good things will come. When is the question.

  6. Pete Moss says:

    Concur with Phil. AT&T, as usual, is picking the low hanging fruit only. Now they intend to sell off most of their rural infrastructure just like Verizon. The new companies like Frontier are poorly financed and will cry “no money” if the PUCs lean on them to provide HS DSL based service. I pity the folks in the rural communities being stuck with LTE and/or Satellite based services that are slow, expensive, and low capped.

  7. Joshua Taylor says:

    Read a book. Your books are just sitting there too long just waiting to be read, and they’re wearing out. Get rid of your internet, save your money and READ. Who cares about AT&T and the Internet?

    Now is the time for you all to make a real living. Go out and make real friends. There is so much important things for you all to do instead of fattening yourselves with the internet and wasting your money.

    • rjdafoe says:

      Except most of my books are digital on my Ipad, so thanks, I read all the time. I also am outside and take part in a bunch of community things.

      There is such a thing as your own leisure time, and there is much out there on the internet to learn. Sorry, but your comment shows a disregard for modern life. There are plenty of things that 1 hour a week on the internet gets you over 0 hours. Even if your bill is $80 a month for internet, and you only use it 1 hour a week, depending on what you do, you can save more than that on gas if you were to drive for that time instead.

    • txoutback says:

      Joshua, you make a good point, but its just not possible to dismiss something like the Internet these days so idly. People rely on it for their livelyhoods… sometimes to sell their crops, sometimes to learn how to live wiser in the rural lifestyle. Not being out-of-touch means you have better access to important knowledge and commerce becomes marginalized (vs. a big hassle), allowing you more free time to spend wisely out of doors and with family.

      The interesting thing about modern rural folks, (especially those of us who are left the suburbs to live a better life) is that they’ve figured out how to concentrate on the aspects of the internet that make your live better, instead of the the silly time-wasting aspects of the internet that others might drown their empty lives with.

      It really is about bringing information and culture to the heart of our nation’s workforce and food supply. Sounds pretty important, eh?

    • Damaeus says:

      Joshua Taylor says:

      >>> [SNIP]— Get rid of your internet, save your money and READ. Who cares about AT&T and the Internet? —[SNIP]— There is so much important things for you all to do instead of fattening yourselves with the internet and wasting your money.<<<

      I think it's hilarious and hypocritical that you posted that on the internet!

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