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AT&T to Introduce DirecTV Satellite Service… Over the Internet

Phillip Dampier May 16, 2018 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

DirecTV’s satellite lineup, delivered over the internet.

DirecTV satellite customers with broadband connections might be able to scrap their satellite dishes and set-top equipment when AT&T launches its broadband-delivered version of DirecTV by the end of 2018.

AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan made the announcement at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit on Tuesday, telling the audience the lineup would be nearly identical to the satellite TV packages customers get today from DirecTV’s satellite dish service.

Customers who opt to dump their dish may also save money by moving their subscription to a broadband platform. Currently, AT&T sells DirecTV for $120-200 a month, depending on equipment and channel lineup. The broadband equivalent, which will not require any expensive set-top box equipment and will rely on a cloud-based DVR, will sell for $80-90 a month.

DirecTV satellite packages (new customer promotional rates — regular prices are higher)

“We won’t roll a truck,” to install a satellite dish, Donovan said. “The [equipment costs] will be cheaper. It will be a thinner, lighter version and we will have lower operating costs. We anticipate passing [on] a lot of those cost savings [to customers].”

Donovan believes a transition away from satellite will be a win-win for the company and consumers because both will face lower costs. It also gives DirecTV the chance to expand, marketing its full video lineup to customers who can’t get a satellite signal, don’t want a dish, or live in a building that restricts satellite equipment.

“It will extend our footprint,” Donovan said at the MoffettNathanson event. “It will not only have a lower price point, but it will have margins that are similar and, therefore, better returns because there will be less upfront costs.”

With today’s announcement, AT&T will have at least five different video products on offer for consumers: DirecTV satellite service, DirecTV over broadband, DirecTV Now — a slimmed down package targeting cord-cutters, U-verse TV — AT&T’s traditional cable TV package, and AT&T Watch — a forthcoming ultra-slim offering that will cost $15 a month for non-AT&T wireless customers. Existing AT&T wireless customers will get Watch free of charge, if they have an unlimited data plan.

DirecTV Now Launches Free 20-Hour Storage DVR Service to Customers

Phillip Dampier May 15, 2018 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV, Online Video 3 Comments

AT&T’s DirecTV Now service has introduced its long-awaited cloud storage DVR service to its streaming customers, offering 20 hours of recording space for no additional charge.

“True Cloud DVR” has been in beta testing for about 10 months as AT&T built up its streaming platform and squashed several persistent bugs afflicting recordings. With today’s introduction, DirecTV Now customers will have access to a time-shifting DVR with true fast-forward and rewind features without having to pay extra for the service. But recordings will expire after 30 days.

Later this summer, AT&T will offer customers a $10 optional upgrade to 100 hours of DVR storage space and the ability to store recorded shows for up to 90 days.

DVR service is just one of several changes introduced today by DirecTV Now:

  • A complete app refresh, emphasizing the viewer’s favorite shows and networks.
  • The option to add a third concurrent stream for an additional $5 a month.
  • Over 25,000 on-demand titles and much faster availability of some TV shows for on-demand viewing – as little as minutes after airing.
  • Users will be able to access their local stations while traveling outside of the area.

The upgraded look and new features are available starting today for iOS and tvOS users and web users. Android, Fire TV, and Roku devices will see upgrades in the weeks ahead.


AT&T’s ‘Pay for Play’ Payments to Donald Trump’s Lawyer May Have Been as High as $600,000

Phillip Dampier May 9, 2018 AT&T, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Earlier press accounts that AT&T paid $200,000 to President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen for “consulting work” was actually closer to $600,000, according to a source talking to Reuters on Wednesday.

AT&T acknowledged on Tuesday it paid $200,000 to Cohen-owned Essential Consultants, a limited liability shell company, claiming it was to help the telecom company gain “insights” into the Trump Administration at the same time it was lobbying to win federal approval of its merger with Time Warner, Inc., and was seeking regulatory favors on issues including net neutrality, broadband regulation, pole attachment fees, municipal broadband, and decommissioning its rural landline network.

The first revelations about AT&T’s payment to the same company used to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels came from her attorney, Michael Avenatti, who released detailed information about payments from AT&T, a pharmaceutical company, and a firm with direct ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, a close confidante of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Reuters reports it was unclear how Avenatti knew about those payments, but his information was detailed and partly confirmed by AT&T, noting payments of $50,000 in October-December, 2017 and one additional payment in January, 2018 of $50,000 — totaling $200,000.


However, the contract was for a year, the source told Reuters, meaning AT&T likely paid more than $200,000 to Cohen’s company. A full year contract for $50,000 per month would total $600,000. The source declined to give a total for the payments made by AT&T to Cohen’s company.

It is not known what happened to the money AT&T paid Cohen, but there is speculation the president could have known about the payments and seen them as a goodwill gesture as AT&T battles with the Administration’s Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission over its $85 billion merger deal and accusations it speed-throttled wireless customers who exceeded an arbitrary usage allowance.

AT&T today released a company-wide letter to employees explaining its position on the matter:

From: T Now
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2018 12:10 PM
Subject: Perspective on the news

To: All U.S. AT&T employees

Late yesterday, many media outlets reported that in 2017, AT&T hired Michael Cohen, a former lawyer with the Trump Organization. We want you to know the facts.

In early 2017, as President Trump was taking office, we hired several consultants to help us understand how the President and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company, including regulatory reform at the FCC, corporate tax reform and antitrust enforcement. Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new Presidential Administration, and we have done so in previous Administrations, as well.

Cohen was one of those consultants. Cohen did no legal or lobbying work for us, and our contract with Cohen expired at the end of its term in December 2017. It was not until the following month in January 2018 that the media first reported, and AT&T first became aware of, the current controversy surrounding Cohen.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said at a press conference that the Judiciary Committee should review the payments AT&T and other companies made to Cohen.

Blumenthal speculated those payments “may well have been used to influence the president of the United States, using Michael Cohen and his shell company as a conduit.”

AT&T Ho-Hum About 5G Residential Broadband: Just Give Them Fiber to the Home

AT&T admitted this week it was not excited about delivering residential broadband over 5G wireless networks, calling arguments for wireless 5G in-home broadband “a very tricky business case.”

John Stephens, AT&T’s chief financial officer, told analysts in a quarterly conference call AT&T has tested 5G wireless technology and it works from a technological standpoint, but the company isn’t sure there is a compelling business case to sell 5G technology as a home wired broadband replacement.

“We’re not as excited about the business case. It’s not as compelling yet for us as it may be for some,” Stephens said, explaining companies planning to offer 5G service will need to find extensive, existing fiber networks or construct their own in residential neighborhoods to connect each small cell 5G antenna. Where AT&T provides local phone service, it is already expanding its own fiber network to replace existing copper wire facilities.

“Frankly, if we’ve got fiber there, it may be just as effective and maybe even a better quality product to give those customers fiber-to-the-home” instead of 5G wireless service, Stephens told Wall Street.

San Jose Leverages Light Pole Small Cell Deal With AT&T; $1M for Low Income Internet Access

Small cell antenna

San Jose, Calif., officials announced Monday they have reached a tentative deal with AT&T to permit small cell technology on up to 750 city-owned light poles that could pave the way for future 5G wireless rollouts.

Mayor Sam Liccardo, a former member (and critic) of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Council, told residents he would leverage light pole agreements with wireless companies in return for money that can be spent addressing San Jose’s digital divide, starting with affordable internet access for the poor.

The non exclusive 15-year agreement will allow AT&T to bolster its FirstNet first responder network and offer leased access to light poles for $1,500 per pole per year. AT&T plans to initially place around 170 small cell antennas on light poles beginning later this year that can provide enhanced wireless data speeds and improved cell coverage in the city. The first deployment will not include 5G antennas. The deal still faces approval by San Jose’s city council at a May 1 meeting.

The deal is a victory for Mayor Liccardo, who opposed a wireless industry-written bill that was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown late in 2017. That bill would have capped pole attachment lease fees at $250 a year, hampering the mayor’s Smart City Vision initiative introduced two years earlier, with a goal of providing affordable internet access for local residents. Had the wireless industry’s bill become law, the city government would have had to find funds for the mayor’s initiative elsewhere.

Liccardo predicted the deal with AT&T will generate up to $5 million in lease fees, with a $1 million advance from AT&T the city intends to use to launch its low income digital initiatives. Few specifics about the mayor’s affordable internet access program were available at press time.

San Jose’s approach is considerably different from that of the states of Texas and Tennessee — both passing new state laws limiting pole attachment lease fees and reducing local control over small cell placement. Mayor Liccardo wants AT&T to share part of its anticipated new revenue from small cell technology to help poorer residents get access to the internet, while Texas and Tennessee hope that deregulation and limited fees and bureaucracy will strengthen the business case for more rapid expansion of small cell networks in both states.

KGO-TV in San Francisco reports on San Jose’s recent agreement with AT&T to deploy small cells on city-owned light poles. (1:47)

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