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Fact Check: Time Warner Cable’s $25 Million Fiber Upgrade: For Business Use Only

Despite glowing media reports about Time Warner Cable’s announcement it is investing $25 million to expand its fiber optic network in parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, in fact the fiber expansion is part of a previously-reached franchise agreement with New York City officials and will only be available to large business customers that can afford the asking price.

Time Warner Cable’s press release, which generated favorable media coverage in The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News, focused considerable attention on fiber upgrades for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, since reborn as a modern tech-friendly business park.

TWCBC also announced that the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, a 501(c)(3) organization, will receive a state-of-the-art Time Warner Cable Learning Lab in its Employment Center, located inside the massive complex and accessible to the public.

“We are very pleased to work with the City of New York to make significant investments to ensure that this city has the technology infrastructure to successfully compete in a worldwide marketplace,” said Ken Fitzpatrick, President of Time Warner Cable Business Class, East Region. “Our fiber optic network provides dedicated Internet access at incredible speeds and high-bandwidth capabilities to serve the communications needs of any business.”

Time Warner Cable was required to make its investment in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as part of its franchise agreement with NYC officials.

Time Warner Cable did not, however, provide this investment out of the goodness of their heart. They were required to under the terms of the current franchise agreement the company signed with city officials:

[Time Warner Cable] will install, at its own expense, the fiber optic and coaxial cables and related facilities and equipment needed to provide its service to the buildings and occupants throughout the Brooklyn Navy Yard facility.

Time Warner Cable is also extending its network to more commercial establishments throughout the city, in keeping with its previously-announced interest in expanding services to business customers. Nothing new to see here either.

That did not stop Bloomberg News from comparing Time Warner’s network expansion with Google’s gigabit network in Kansas City:

Time Warner Cable Inc. will expand fiber-optic lines to businesses in New York, a move that boosts Internet speeds as much as 20 times and provides an East Coast counterpoint to Google’s ultrafast network in Kansas City.

The company faces a threat from Google more than 1,000 miles away in Kansas City, where the Internet-search giant is building a fiber-optic network as a test project. Time Warner Cable is the main broadband provider for the area, which spans parts of Missouri and Kansas. While Google’s network will be available to both companies and households, Time Warner Cable’s New York fiber network is focused on businesses.

Google’s network initially will only be sold to residential customers, which are the primary targets for the service. Time Warner Cable’s fiber backbone network primarily works in tandem with its coaxial cable network and does not provide a fiber to the premises connection except for the company’s largest corporate customers.

Time Warner Cable Business Class sells different speeds and services to commercial clients. Most choose speeds considerably lower than 1,000Mbps because of the cost.

What was missing from the coverage is the fact ordinary residential Time Warner Cable customers in New York City will not benefit from these fiber upgrades — they are targeted only to commercial clients. Residential customers will continue to receive the same hybrid fiber-coax service they always have from the cable company.

If New York customers want fiber service, they will have to buy it from Verizon, assuming FiOS has made its way to your borough and neighborhood.

Four Telcos-Four Stories: The Big Money is in Commercial Services — Today: CenturyLink

Four of the nation’s largest phone companies — two former Baby Bells, two independents — have very different ideas about solving the rural broadband problem in the country. Which company serves your area could make all the difference between having basic DSL service or nothing at all.

Some blame Wall Street for the problem, others criticize the leadership at companies that only see dollars, not solutions. Some attack the federal government for interfering in the natural order of the private market, and some even hold rural residents at fault for expecting too much while choosing to live out in the country.

This four-part series will examine the attitudes of the four largest phone companies you may be doing business with in your small town.

Today: CenturyLink — Our Commercial Customers Deliver 60% of Our Revenue; Our Attention Follows Accordingly

“Business customers now drive about 60% of our total operating revenues,” CenturyLink CEO Glenn F. Post III told investors in March. “Our focus on delivering advanced solutions and data hosting services to businesses are key factors in improving our top line revenue trend.”

With residential customers departing traditional landlines at an average rate of 5-10 percent a year, keeping customers has become an important priority for a number of phone companies, especially those who have plowed millions into mergers and acquisitions to build their businesses. For the past several years, CenturyLink has been acquiring small, regional independent phone companies, a former Baby Bell, and a competing landline provider Sprint used to think would be an important part of its business.

Century Telephone’s original customers were mostly cobbled together from acquisitions from other phone companies, including names like GTE, Central Telephone Company of Ohio (part of Centel), Pacific Telecom, Mebtel and GulfTel. But the biggest expansion of the company would come from acquisitions of Sprint-spinoff Embarq and former Baby Bell Qwest.

Today CenturyLink operates one of the nation’s largest independent phone companies, and serves markets large (primarily on the west coast) and small (rural communities primarily in the southeast, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin).

CenturyLink’s revenues have often been uneven, mostly because of its acquisitions, landline losses, and the effects from competition in its larger markets. While CenturyLink’s acquisitions grew the company, they also saddled it with landline networks that have proved inadequate to meet the growing needs of customers. With a disconnect rate running between 6.4% this quarter and 7.6% in the same quarter a year ago, residential customers are leaving their voice lines behind in favor of cell phones and broadband customers are departing for faster speeds available from cable operators.

These “legacy services” lost the company $124 million in revenue — an 8.1% decrease over the past quarter. As customers depart, so do CenturyLink employees that used to handle the old landline network.

To make up the lost revenue, CenturyLink has gotten more aggressive in other areas of its business:

  • Increasing focus on business/commercial and governmental services, including managed hosting, cloud computing and other commercially-targeted broadband initiatives;
  • Deployment of fiber to cell towers as a growing revenue source;
  • Limited, but ongoing rural broadband expansion;
  • Development of Prism TV — a fiber to the neighborhood service targeting residential customers.

CenturyLink calls these their four key initiatives towards revenue stability, stable cash flow, and growth.

In the business services segment, CenturyLink sees enormous revenue potential selling businesses access to data centers, co-location services, and ethernet-speed broadband. Last year, CenturyLink acquired Savvis, an important enterprise-level service provider and owner of 50 data centers. Phone companies like CenturyLink are also in a race with large cable operators to be the first to offer cell phone companies access to “fiber-to-the-tower” service to support exploding data growth on 4G wireless networks.

Faster DSL, Fiber to the Neighborhood-Broadband Key to Keeping Residential Customers Happy

CenturyLink’s network map showing both its own service areas, and infrastructure obtained from the acquisition of Qwest.

For consumers, CenturyLink has been moderately aggressive in some areas boosting speeds of its DSL services. The company claims 70% of their DSL-capable landline network provides speeds of at least 6Mbps. At least 55% supports 10Mbps or higher; over 25% can manage 20Mbps or faster.

The company’s Prism TV service, a fiber to the neighborhood upgrade comparable to AT&T U-verse, is now available to nearly 6.3 million homes and apartments in eight cities. By year end, CenturyLink says it will increase that to 7.1 million homes.

Prism represents a significant portion of CenturyLink’s investment in its residential business. So far, the results have not proven a major threat to the competition. CenturyLink added 15,000 Prism subscribers in the first quarter, but the company only has 8% of the market. Cable and satellite providers continue to dominate. But the company says Prism is helping to keep the customers they already have.

CenturyLink says it now taking Prism TV west into former Qwest territory, starting in and around Colorado Springs, Col.

Customers will likely be offered 130 channels starting at $59.99 a month with a free set top box (new customers typically receive a $20 monthly discount for the first six months of service).

The phone company will compete with Comcast, which sells 80 channels for $56 a month (new customers get a $26/mo discount for the first six months).

With CenturyLink providing a better deal, at least for television service, Colorado City officials hope the competition will bring down rates, at least for new customers. That may be exactly what happens, predicts Mark Ewell, a senior account executive with Windstream Communications.

“We could see some pressure on Comcast’s rates. I would like to see Comcast adopt a price model that doesn’t go up after a promotional period,” Ewell told The Gazette.

“CenturyLink is likely to be more of a threat to the satellite providers like DirecTV and Dish because they have a much higher market share in Colorado Springs than they do in most other markets because so many customers left Adelphia [acquired in bankruptcy by Comcast] when it had its financial problems. Those customers have already shown a willingness to leave the cable television provider and try another service.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CenturyLink Prism TV.flv

CenturyLink shows off its new Prism TV offering in this company-produced video.  (2 minutes)

CenturyTel acquires Embarq and changes its name to CenturyLink to reduce the emphasis on its traditional landline business.

CenturyLink’s arrival in the triple-play business of phone, Internet, and television service could be the first serious competition Comcast has gotten outside of satellite providers. WideOpenWest had a franchise to provide service in 2000 but never did. Falcon Broadband won a franchise in 2006, but only provides service to around 1,500 customers in the Banning Lewis Ranch, Black Forest, and Falcon areas. Porchlight Communications received a franchise in 2007, installed service for 500 customers but ultimately never charged them. Porchlight’s IPTV service never worked properly with its chosen set top boxes. That fatal flaw put the company out of the cable business, and the company turned the porch light off for good, abandoning its franchise.

Rural Broadband: Unless the Government Delivers More Subsidies, Rural Customers Will Continue Waiting

In late July, CenturyLink announced it would accept $35 million from the Federal Communications Commission’s new Connect America Program (CAP) to deploy broadband to homes and businesses in rural, broadband-deprived parts of its service area.

CenturyLink has the capability to extend broadband to 100 percent of its customers, but not the willingness to invest the money to make that happen, critics contend. CenturyLink freely admits it applies a financial test when considering when and where to expand its DSL broadband service into its most rural service areas.

In short, the company must recoup its costs of deploying broadband within a certain time frame, and be confident that a certain percentage of customers are going to sign up for broadband service, before it will agree to make the investment. Virtually all of CenturyLink’s current service areas have already met or failed that test, which leaves an indefinite group of broadband “have’s” and “have-nots.”

To shake up the status quo, the FCC proposed to shift Universal Service Fund money, collected from all phone customers, away from landline service towards rural broadband deployment. This invites CenturyLink, and other phone companies, to run those financial tests again. With urban customers footing part of the bill, theoretically more homes should squeak past the return on investment test.

In fact, more homes will finally get CenturyLink broadband — around 45,000 in semi-rural and suburban areas where the costs to provide the service are not as great as in truly rural areas.  The FCC is offering to cover just short of $800 per household to cut the costs of deploying rural Internet access.

But CenturyLink complains the money is not nearly enough to solve the really-rural broadband problem.

“In very rural areas where we really have the greatest need for support, this amount, on a per-location basis, will not be enough to allow us to really do an economic build-out,” Post told investors this spring. “So we’re still in the process really of evaluating our opportunities….”

That will leave CenturyLink likely spending considerably more upgrading its urban landline network to support Prism TV instead of supplying rural broadband service.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CenturyLink History.flv

Jeff Oberschelp, vice president and general manager of CenturyLink of Nevada discusses the past history of CenturyLink and where phone companies are going in the future in this company-friendly interview.  (6 minutes)

Kansas City Media Introduces, Explains, and Confuses Google Fiber for the Uninformed

Believe it or not, Google Fiber has not always been headline news in Kansas City. Outside of a few stories in early spring about zoning and installation matters, local media (particularly television) has mostly given back page treatment to Google’s new fiber network since the city was first chosen in March, 2011.

That all changed last Thursday when television, radio, and newspaper reporters flooded a converted yoga studio in midtown Kansas City to attend Google Fiber’s unveiling. Many stations aired live reports on-site and devoted time during their afternoon and evening newscasts to explain what the service is all about, starting with what it will cost — $70 a month for 1Gbps service (or paying a flat $300 for 5/1Mbps service for the next seven years). Adding television brings the final price to $120 a month. Google considers landline phone service a dead-end business, and won’t bundle a telephone option, but customers can use Google Voice to make and receive most calls for free.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KMBC Kansas City Google announces details of Google Fiber service 7-26-12.flv

KMBC reports on the introduction of Google Fiber, what it will cost Kansas City residents, what it means for the city as whole, and when and how service will be installed.  (3 minutes)

Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James said Google Fiber was more of an opportunity than a gift for Kansas City.

“We now have an opportunity to take a giant step and if we don’t it’s all on us,” James said.

KCUR Radio in Kansas City explores some of the public policy and institutional changes Google Fiber can bring the area with the advent of gigabit broadband. Mike Burke, Missouri co-chair, and Dr. Ray Daniels, Kansas co-chair of the Mayors’ Bistate Innovation Team talks about what changes Google Fiber could bring to health care, education, government, and more.  The Mayors’ Bistate Innovation Team recently released a report titled “Playing to Win in America’s Digital Crossroads,” a playbook for capitalizing on ultra-high-speed fiber in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. (Some of the specific details discussed in the program turned out to be outdated after last Thursday’s announcement introducing the service.)  (June 6, 2012) (52 minutes)
You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.

Some in the media seemed disappointed Google spent a considerable amount of time selling the entertainment-oriented element of its service — namely the television lineup and the equipment that comes with it, and less on the educational and transformational nature of gigabit broadband. But many in the audience didn’t need an explanation of what 1,000/1,000Mbps service will mean for them.

Reviewing the coverage shows a predictable response:

  • Those under 30 want it today and won’t think twice about paying $70 to get it;
  • Those running businesses that depend on the web also want it, and are slightly perturbed Google will only sell to residential customers at first;
  • Families with young children want the service because they feel it will be a game-changer for their children’s education and future career;
  • Income-challenged residents are concerned about the cost, but are happy to discover Google has an affordable option for them to participate in the wired world;
  • Older residents seem preoccupied with the price and consider the television lineup even more important than broadband speed;
  • Schools, libraries, health care, and non-profit groups are thrilled with the prospect of getting free or deeply discounted service;
  • Incumbent providers are putting on a brave face, relying on what they feel is excellent customer service, local ties to the communities they service, and a current customer base that may be reluctant to switch.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCTV Kansas City Introducing Google Fiber 7-26-12.mp4

Google Fiber has arrived in Kansas City, and neighborhoods will compete to see who gets the gigabit broadband service first. KCTV in Kansas City reports. (3 minutes)

Google Fiber’s free 5/1Mbps service is another embarrassment to big cable companies like Comcast which offer less service for more money.

The Kansas City Star needlessly fretted about the remaining digital divide of Internet “have’s” and “have-not’s,” as Google launched a competition between neighborhoods to determine where to install the service first.

So far, many poorer urban core neighborhoods are expressing interest in Google fiber at a slower rate than middle- and higher-income neighborhoods.

It’s important now for efforts to reach out to help the lower-income neighborhoods rally so the access doesn’t become a new dividing line.

The newspaper is concerned by Google’s fiber map showing many minority, inner-city neighborhoods have yet to receive a single commitment from a resident willing to pre-register for the service. But Google is not running a competition to exclude anyone. It is surveying interest to ensure it has a working business model to sustain its fiber broadband operation. Overshadowed by the gigabit broadband announcement is the fact Google is also including a real solution for the income-challenged — an entry-level 5/1Mbps broadband option that will cost just $300 (payable in $25 installments) that guarantees service with no additional payment for seven years.

That is a broadband solution far superior to the afterthought programs on offer from Comcast and a handful of phone companies that only deliver a fraction of the speed, at a higher price, to those who meet a byzantine set of requirements. It is yet another embarrassment for Kabletown, which would not have even offered the service had the government not made it a condition for approving the mega-merger of NBC-Universal and Comcast.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCTV Kansas City Neighborhoods Compete for Fiber 7-26-12.flv

KCTV visits some of the neighborhoods competing to be the first to get Google Fiber. Reaction from residents varies from those willing to canvas neighborhoods to get people to pre-register to others who will consider switching providers only if the price is right.  (4 minutes)

One Star columnist likened Google Fiber to a public works project that threatened to go bad pitting neighborhoods against one-another, rich against poor:

The more educated, middle- to upper-income neighborhoods in southwest KC and in midtown were signing up for first crack at the service.

Meanwhile, the neighborhoods without as many computers and without the income to afford the $70 or $120 proposed monthly charges for Google Fiber were signing up at far slower rates.

None of that means Google Fiber won’t be a big success.

But let’s not pretend there won’t be winners and losers with this advance in technology.

If Google Fiber narrows that digital gap – and makes more information available more quickly to more people to help boost the economy of KC – that’s all for the good.

However, being able to hook up eight computers in a house so people can be more entertained doesn’t set my world on fire.

Let’s remember Google Fiber is intended to be a for-profit business run by a for-profit corporation. Star columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah might have been more comfortable had he advocated for a community-owned broadband solution committed to serving every neighborhood, everywhere. Google Fiber is not that, at least not now. The alternatives from AT&T and Time Warner Cable have not solved the digital divide either. Giving away effectively-free 5/1Mbps broadband for seven years might.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCTV Kansas City Fiberhoods 7-26-12.mp4

Google’s Fiberhoods are likely to win fiber service for the more high-tech areas of Kansas City, among the first to pre-register. Google’s Kevin Lo explains those areas most committed to getting the service will also win free fiber connections for their neighborhood’s schools, health care facilities, and public safety buildings.  KCTV reports. (3 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCTV Kansas City Benefits of Google Fiber 7-26-12.mp4

KCTV explores what Google Fiber could mean for local schools who can utilize the faster connections for distance and remote learning.  (3 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WDAF Kansas City Customers Put Google Fiber to the Test 7-28-12.flv

WDAF in Kansas City covers Google Fiber’s weekend “Open House,” inviting residents to experience what gigabit broadband is really like, and letting them see and sample the company’s broadband and television service.  (2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KSHB Kansas City Northland business owners react to Google Fiber limitations 7-26-12.mp4

KSHB in Kansas City covers the reaction of local business owners elated and frustrated by the arrival of Google Fiber, which will open the door to new online innovation once Google begins selling to commercial customers (and if you are lucky enough to work in a Google Fiberhood.)  (2 minutes)

6 University Towns Will Get Gigabit Broadband Through New Public-Private Partnership

Six college towns will benefit from the nation’s first multi-community broadband gigabit deployment, thanks to $200 million in capital funding to get the broadband networks off the ground.

The Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program leverages local government, universities, private capital, and the public to jointly support and foster the development of new fiber optic networks.

The new program claims it will offer competitively-priced super-fast broadband through projects that will cover neighborhoods of 5,000-10,000 people and communities up to 100,000 in size.  Selection of the six winning communities will be announced between this fall and next spring.

“Gigabit Squared created the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program to help select Gig.U communities build and test gigabit speed broadband networks with speeds from 100 to 1000 times faster than what Americans have today,” the company said in a statement.

“The United States is behind in the world for Internet speed,” said Mark Ansboury, Gigabit’s president and co-founder. “The goal is to help get us out front for a platform of innovation.”

That platform is certainly not forthcoming from the country’s largest broadband providers, who according to Ansboury have been pulling back on wired infrastructure upgrades in recent years, shifting focus to more profitable wireless networks.

Gigabit Squared defines the next generation of broadband Internet in terms of speed, declaring 2,000Mbps (2Gbps) as the target to achieve.

The winning projects will be sponsored by Gig.U members, which include:

  • Arizona State University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Colorado State University
  • Duke University
  • Florida State University
  • George Mason University
  • The Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Howard University
  • Indiana University
  • Michigan State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Penn State University
  • University of Alaska – Fairbanks
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Colorado – Boulder
  • University of Florida
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Maine
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Montana
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of South Florida
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Washington
  • Virginia Tech
  • Wake Forest University
  • West Virginia University

Blair Levin, executive director at Gig.U, believes private American telecom companies will always be constrained from delivering world class broadband comparable to South Korea or Japan because of Wall Street opposition to the investment required to construct them. In the eyes of investors, today’s slower networks, in their estimation, do just fine.

Gig.U believes that they have a solution, at least for towns with a sizable university system that can serve as host of the next generation broadband network:

First, any community that wants its residents to have access to a network that delivers world-leading bandwidth can do so. The barrier is not technology or economics. The barrier is organization; specifically, organizing demand and improved use of underutilized assets, such as rights of way, dark fiber, or in more rural areas, spectrum. The responses identified a multitude of ways local communities can improve the private investment case by lowering investment and risk, and increasing revenues for private players willing to upgrade or build new networks without budget outlays from the local government.

Second, the responses confirmed that university communities have the easiest organizing task and greatest upside. Their density, demographics and demand make the current economics more favorable for an upgrade than other communities. For example, the high percentage of the population in university communities living in multiple dwelling units makes the economics of an upgrade far more favorable than for communities composed largely of single-family homes. With the growing importance of Big Data for the economy and the society, university communities are the natural havens for such enterprises to be born and prosper. Through the Gig.U process, our communities are already exploring more than a half-dozen paths to achieve an upgrade; paths that will be replicable for others and will deliver a major step forward in providing America a strategic broadband advantage.

Outside of a handful of upstart private competitors like California-based Sonic.net, most fiber broadband expansion come from private companies like Google — building an experimental fiber-to-the-home network in Kansas City, community-owned broadband services coordinated by local town or city government, co-op telecommunications companies owned by their subscribers, or municipal utilities.

While those efforts are typically committed to the concept of “universal service” — wiring their entire communities — the Gig.U project targets funding only for networks in and around university campuses.

The New America Foundation builds on Gig.U’s premise in its own recent report, “Universities as Hubs for Next Generation Networks,” which argues affordable expansion of broadband can win community support when the public has the right to also benefit from those networks. While Gig.U’s approach suggests the project will target fiber broadband directly to the homes qualified to receive it, the New America Foundation supports the construction of mesh wireless Wi-Fi networks to keep construction costs low for neighborhoods targeted for service.

An earlier project in Orono and Old Town, Maine may afford a preview of Gig.U’s vision, as that collaboration between the University of Maine and private fiber provider GWI is already in its construction phase. For those lucky enough to live within range of the fiber project, broadband speeds will far exceed what incumbents Time Warner Cable and FairPoint Communications deliver. FairPoint has fought similar projects (and GWI specifically) for years.

Will private providers object to the Gig.U effort to win local governments’ favor in the six cities eventually chosen for service? History suggests the answer will be yes, at least to the extent local cable and phone companies demand the same concessions for easy pole access, reduced pole attachment fees, and easing of zoning restrictions and procedures Gig.U project coordinators expect.

Levin has stressed Gig.U projects are based on university and private funding sources, not taxpayer dollars. That may also limit how much objection commercial providers may be able to raise against the projects.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WABI Bangor Orono Maine Getting Faster Service 5-16-12.flv

WABI in Bangor previews the new gigabit broadband network being constructed in Orono and Old Town, Maine.  (2 minutes)

Inside ALEC: How Corporations Ghost-Write Anti-Consumer State Telecom Legislation

[Stop the Cap! has written extensively about the pervasive influence some of the nation’s largest cable and phone companies have on telecommunications legislation in this country.  On the state level, one group above all others is responsible for quietly getting company-ghost-written bills and resolutions into the hands of state lawmakers to introduce as their own.]

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the latest corporate response to campaign finance and lobbying reform — a Washington, D.C.-based “middle man” that brings lawmakers and corporate interests together while obfuscating the obvious conflict of interest to voters back home if they realized what was going on.

ALEC focuses on state laws its corporate members detest because, in many cases, they represent the only regulatory obstacles left after more than two decades of deregulatory fervor on the federal level.  State lawmakers are ALEC’s targets — officeholders unaccustomed to a multi-million dollar influence operation.  The group invites lawmakers to participate in policy sessions that equally balance corporate executives on one side with elected officials on the other.  Consumers are not invited to participate.

ALEC’s telecom members have several agendas on the state level, mostly repealing:

  • Local franchising and oversight of cable television service;
  • Statewide oversight of the quality of service and measuring the reliability of phone and cable operators;
  • Consumer protection laws, including those that offer customers a third party contact for unresolved service problems;
  • Universal service requirements that insist all customers in a geographic region be permitted to receive service;
  • Funding support for public, educational, and government access television channels;
  • Rules governing the eventual termination of essential service for non/past due payments;
  • Local zoning requirements and licensing of outside work.

But ALEC is not always focused on deregulation or “smaller government.” In fact, many of its clients want new legislation that is designed to protect their position of incumbency or enhance profits.  Cable and phone company-written bills that restrict or ban public broadband networks are introduced to lawmakers through ALEC-sponsored events.  In several cases, model legislation that was developed by cable and phone companies was used as a template for nearly-identical bills introduced in several states without disclosing who actually authored the original bill.

ALEC specializes in secrecy, rarely granting interviews or talking about the corporations that pay tens of thousands of dollars to belong.  Corporate members also enjoy full veto rights over any proposal or idea not to their liking, and aborted resolutions or legislative proposals are kept completely confidential. More often than not, however, legislators and corporate members come to an agreement on something, and the end product ends up in a central database of model bills and resolutions ready to be introduced in any of 50 state legislatures.

Many do, and often these proposed bills are remarkably similar, if not identical. That proved to be no coincidence.  In July 2011, the Center for Media and Democracy was able to obtain a complete copy of ALEC’s master database of proposed legislation.  The Center called it a stark example of “corporate collaboration reshaping our democracy, state by state.”

National Public Radio takes an inside look at the American Legislative Exchange Council and how it works to help major corporations influence and change state laws. (October 29, 2010) (8 minutes)
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ALEC’s Corporate Telecom Members

ALEC defends itself saying it does not directly lobby any legislator.  That is, in fact true.  But many of its corporate members clearly do.  AT&T is one of ALEC’s most high profile members, serving as a “Private Enterprise Board” member, state corporate co-chair of Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas (all AT&T service areas), a member of the Telecommunications and Information Technology Task force, and “Chairman” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC Annual Conference (a privilege for those contributing $50,000).

AT&T’s lobbying is legendary, and is backed with enormous campaign contributions to legislators on the state and federal level.

But AT&T isn’t the only telecommunications company that belongs to or supports ALEC:

  • CenturyLink (also including Qwest Communications), “Director” level sponsor of 2011 ALEC Annual Conference ($10,000 in 2010)
  • Cincinnati Bell
  • Comcast, State corporate co-chair of Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri and Utah and recipient of ALEC’s 2011 State Chair of the Year Award
  • Cox Communications, “Trustee” level sponsor of 2011 ALEC Annual Conference ($5,000 in 2010)
  • Time Warner Cable, State corporate co-chair of Ohio, “Director” level sponsor of 2011 ALEC Annual Conference ($10,000 in 2010)
  • Verizon Communications, Private Enterprise Board member and State corporate co-chair of Virginia and Wyoming

ALEC supporters among trade groups and astroturf/corporate-influenced “non profits”:

  • National Cable and Telecommunications Association, ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force member
  • Free State Foundation (think tank promoting limited government and rule of law principles in telecommunications and information technology policy)
  • Heartland Institute, Exhibitor at ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference, Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force member, Education Task Force member, Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, Financial Services Subcommittee member and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force member

ALEC’s Ready-to-Introduce Legislation

The two most pervasive pieces of legislation ALEC’s telecom members (especially AT&T) want as a part of state law are bills to strip local authority over cable systems and hand it to the state government and the elimination or excessive micromanagement of community broadband networks:

This model bill for increased cable competition strips most of the authority your community has over cable television operations and transfers it to under-funded or less aggressive state bodies. Although the bill claims to protect local oversight and community access stations, the statewide video franchise fee almost always destroys the funding model for public, educational, and government access channels.

These municipal broadband bills are always written to suggest community and private players must share a "level playing field." But bills like these always exempt the companies that actually wrote the bill, and micromanage and limit the business operations of the community provider.

Legislators: Bring the family to Mardi Gras World on us, sponsored by America's largest telecommunications companies.

WHYY Philadelphia’s ‘Fresh Air’ spent a half hour exploring who really writes the legislation introduced in state legislatures. When ALEC gets involved, The Nation reporter John Nichols thinks the agenda is clear: “All of those pieces of legislation and those resolutions really err toward a goal, and that goal is the advancement of an agenda that seems to be dictated at almost every turn by multinational corporations.” (July 21, 2011) (32 minutes)
You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.

Unfortunately, state lawmakers are not always sophisticated enough to recognize a carefully crafted legislative agenda at work.  National Public Radio found one excellent example — the 2010 Arizona immigration law that requires police to arrest anyone who cannot prove they entered the country legally when asked.  America’s immigration problems remain a major topic on the agenda at some ALEC events, curious for a corporate-backed group until you realize one of ALEC’s members — the Corrections Corporation of America — America’s largest private prison operator, stood to earn millions providing incarceration services for what some estimated could be tens, if not hundreds of thousands of new prisoners being held on suspicion of immigration violations.

CCA was in the room when the model immigration legislation, eventually adopted by Arizona’s legislature, was written at an ALEC conference in 2009.

Bring the Kids, Stay for the Corporate Influence

Getting legislators to attend these seminars isn’t as hard as it might sound.

In January, we reported members of the North Carolina General Assembly, who showed their willingness to support telecom industry-written bills when it passed an anti-community broadband initiative in 2011, were wined and dined (along with their staff) by ALEC at the Mardi Gras World celebration in New Orleans.  Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Time Warner Cable), who introduced the aforementioned measure, brought her husband to Asheville to enjoy a special weekend as the featured guest speaker at a dinner sponsored by North Carolina’s state cable lobbying group:

The North Carolina Cable Telecommunications Association reported they not only picked up Marilyn’s food and bar bill ($290 for the Aug. 6-8 event), they also covered her husband Alex, too.  Alex either ate and drank less than Marilyn, or chose cheaper items from the menu, because his food tab came to just $185.50.  The cable lobby also picked up the Avila’s $471 hotel bill, and handed Alex another $99 in walking-around money to go and entertain himself during the weekend event.  The total bill, effectively covered by the state’s cable subscribers: $1,045.50.

Rep. Avila with Marc Trathen, Time Warner Cable's top lobbyist (right) Photo by: Bob Sepe of Action Audits

ALEC makes it easy because it pays the way for lawmakers and families to attend their events through the award of “scholarships”:

The organization encourages state lawmakers to bring their families. Corporations sponsor golf tournaments on the side and throw parties at night, according to interviews and records obtained by NPR.

[…] Videos and photos from one recent ALEC conference show banquets, open bar parties and baseball games — all hosted by corporations. Tax records show the group spent $138,000 to keep legislators’ children entertained for the week.

But the legislators don’t have to declare these as corporate gifts.

Consider this: If a corporation hosts a party or baseball game and legislators attend, most states require the lawmakers to say where they went and who paid. In this case though, legislators can just say they went to ALEC’s conference. They don’t have to declare which corporations sponsored these events.

Reporter John Nichols told NPR ALEC’s focus on state politics is smart:

“We live at the local and state level. That’s where human beings come into contact more often than not,” he says. “We live today in a country where there’s a Washington obsession, particularly by the media but also by the political class. … And yet, in most areas, it’s not Washington that dictates the outlines, the parameters of our life. … And so if you come in at the state government level, you have a much greater ability to define how you’re going to operate.”

Resources:

  • ALEC Exposed: Access a database of more than 800 corporate ghost-written bills and resolutions intended to become state law in all 50 states. Sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy.
  • ALEC’s Database Revealed: A more general indictment of ALEC and its coordinated agenda to allow corporate influence to hold an increasing role in public policy.
  • Protestors Demand End to Verizon’s Involvement in ALEC: In Albany, N.Y., protestors turned up in front of Verizon demanding the company end its association with ALEC.
  • California Lawmakers Enjoy Free Trips to Hawaii, Europe: California’s state politicians are under fire for lavish travel arranged by ALEC.

Back to Kansas City: Google Fiber Now Going in the Ground; TV Service Also Announced

Phillip Dampier February 23, 2012 AT&T, Broadband Speed, Competition, Google Fiber, Time Warner Cable, Video Comments Off

Nearly one year ago, Google selected Kansas City, Kansas as the first city to “Think Big With a Gig,” a gigabit fiber to the home broadband network that would shatter misconceptions that Americans don’t need lightning-fast broadband speeds.

In the original announcement, early 2012 was slated to be the target date for the service to become available in at least some areas of the city.  After months of wrangling with utility companies and the city government, Google began burying the first fiber lines earlier this month.  This week, it filed for permission with both Kansas and Missouri officials to compliment its forthcoming broadband service with a complete cable-TV package as well.

Google’s fiber project now has incumbent operators on both sides of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers concerned about forthcoming competition from the search engine giant, especially after Google announced it would wire both the Kansas and Missouri sides of the city.

Greater Kansas City is primarily served by Time Warner Cable and AT&T, but smaller cable operators also offer service in some areas.  Google is considering a competitive cable package with video on demand.  It is expected to wrap up licensing negotiations with programmers within a month or two, and some of its contracts allow Google to sell cable service outside of the Kansas City area, a potentially interesting development should Google want to provide an Internet-based cable system to subscribers in other cities.

We have collected several media reports on the Google project in Kansas City to bring readers up to date:

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WDAF Kansas City Gigabit Challenge Offers Google-Friendly Ideas 12-6-11.flv

WDAF in Kansas City reports on some of the submissions to Google’s Gigabit Challenge — a competition to consider how to leverage 1,000Mbps broadband. (12/6/11 — 2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WDAF Kansas City Why is Google Fiber Set Up Taking so Long 1-18-12.flv

WDAF reports on what is holding up the Google Fiber project.  It turns out local utilities have been harder to deal with than originally thought.  (1/18/12 — 3 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KMBC Kansas City Google Begins Fiber Installation In KCK 2-6-12.flv

KMBC reports Google is ready to break ground on its new fiber network.  (2/6/12 — 2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCTV Kansas City Google Starts Laying Fiber 2-18-12.mp4

KCTV says Google started laying fiber this week.  The new service is on the way.  (2 minutes)

House Approves 5-Year Moratorium on New Wireless Taxes, But Existing Fees Will Remain

The House on Tuesday approved a five-year moratorium on new wireless taxes to keep states and localities from padding cell phone bills with new fees for wireless services.

The non-controversial measure easily won bipartisan support and passed quickly on a voice vote with just one member of Congress rising to oppose the measure.

The Wireless Tax Fairness Act, sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, was heavily backed by the wireless industry.  The legislation doesn’t stop local and state governments from imposing existing taxes, but would keep new taxes off cell phone bills if the measure becomes law.  AT&T and Verizon spent heavily to promote the bill, noting customers are cutting back their cell phone and data plans in response to increasing taxes which run as high as 23% in some states.

Historically, state and local governments have seen cell phones as a luxury item, and have targeted them with taxes to help sustain government budgets.  But as consumers increasingly turn to cell phones as landline replacements, the days of such technology being used mostly by the well-heeled are well past.  Lofgren sees the burden of cell phone taxes on Californians, who have dropped traditional landline services in favor of smartphones and wireless broadband.

“We need to encourage the development and adoption of wireless broadband, not tax it out of existence,” said Lofgren.

An identical Senate companion bill was introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), where it also seems to be getting bipartisan support.

Taxes on wireless services now meet or exceed those charged for alcohol and tobacco in several states.

Rank State State-Local Wireless Rate State-Local Sales Tax Rate Federal Rate
(USF)
Combined Federal-State-Local-Rate
1 Nebraska 18.64% 7.00% 5.05% 23.69%
2 Washington 17.95% 9.00% 5.05% 23.00%
3 New York 17.78% 8.25% 5.05% 22.83%
4 Florida 16.57% 7.25% 5.05% 21.62%
5 Illinois 15.85% 9.00% 5.05% 20.90%
6 Rhode Island 14.62% 7.00% 5.05% 19.67%
7 Missouri 14.23% 7.23% 5.05% 19.28%
8 Pennsylvania 14.08% 7.00% 5.05% 19.13%
9 Kansas 13.34% 8.13% 5.05% 18.39%
10 Texas 12.43% 8.25% 5.05% 17.48%
11 Maryland 12.23% 6.00% 5.05% 17.28%
12 Utah 12.16% 6.80% 5.05% 17.21%
13 South Dakota 12.02% 5.96% 5.05% 17.07%
14 Arizona 11.97% 7.20% 5.05% 17.02%
15 DC 11.58% 5.75% 5.05% 16.63%
16 Tennessee 11.58% 9.25% 5.05% 16.63%
17 Arkansas 11.07% 8.38% 5.05% 16.12%
18 Oklahoma 10.74% 8.45% 5.05% 15.79%
19 North Dakota 10.68% 6.00% 5.05% 15.73%
20 California 10.67% 9.25% 5.05% 15.72%
21 New Mexico 10.52% 7.60% 5.05% 15.57%
22 Kentucky 10.42% 6.00% 5.05% 15.47%
23 Colorado 10.40% 7.56% 5.05% 15.45%
24 Indiana 9.84% 7.00% 5.05% 14.89%
25 South Carolina 9.52% 7.25% 5.05% 14.57%
26 North Carolina 9.43% 7.75% 5.05% 14.48%
27 Minnesota 9.38% 7.71% 5.05% 14.43%
28 Mississippi 9.08% 7.00% 5.05% 14.13%
29 New Jersey 8.87% 7.00% 5.05% 13.92%
30 Georgia 8.57% 7.50% 5.05% 13.62%
31 Vermont 8.50% 6.50% 5.05% 13.55%
32 Wisconsin 8.34% 5.55% 5.05% 13.39%
33 New Hampshire 8.18% 0.00% 5.05% 13.23%
34 Ohio 7.95% 7.13% 5.05% 13.00%
35 Wyoming 7.94% 5.50% 5.05% 12.99%
36 Iowa 7.91% 6.50% 5.05% 12.96%
37 Massachusetts 7.81% 6.25% 5.05% 12.86%
38 Hawaii 7.75% 4.00% 5.05% 12.80%
39 Alabama 7.45% 7.25% 5.05% 12.50%
40 Michigan 7.27% 6.00% 5.05% 12.32%
41 Maine 7.16% 5.00% 5.05% 12.21%
42 Connecticut 6.96% 6.00% 5.05% 12.01%
43 Alaska 6.69% 2.50% 5.05% 11.74%
44 Virginia 6.56% 5.00% 5.05% 11.61%
45 Louisiana 6.28% 9.00% 5.05% 11.33%
46 Delaware 6.25% 0.00% 5.05% 11.30%
47 West Virginia 6.23% 6.00% 5.05% 11.28%
48 Montana 6.03% 0.00% 5.05% 11.08%
49 Idaho 2.20% 6.00% 5.05% 7.25%
50 Nevada 2.08% 7.91% 5.05% 7.13%
51 Oregon 1.81% 0.00% 5.05% 6.86%
US Simple Average 9.87% 6.38% 5.05% 14.92%
US Weighted Average 11.21% 7.42% 5.05% 16.26%

[For flat monthly taxes and fees, average monthly consumer bill is estimated at $48.16 per month per CTIA – The Wireless Association.]

Source: Committee on State Taxation, 50-State Study and Report on Telecommunications Taxation, May 2005. Updated July 2010 by Scott Mackey, Kimbell Sherman Ellis LLP using state statutes and regulations.

The taxes levied are supposed to pay for everything from school funding to law enforcement to 911 services.  Some states impose 911 surcharges that local municipalities also charge themselves.  The free-for-all takes an even bigger bite as consumers adopt more expensive plans that include wireless data.

How much consumers would save with the passage of the legislation is unclear, because existing taxes are not impacted.  The measure also does nothing to stop the wireless industry from adding bill padding fees they conjure up themselves.

But the wireless industry still calls the House passage a “crucial step toward providing wireless subscribers with some much needed relief.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Cell Phone Taxes 11-3-11.flv

WKRG in Mobile, Ala. reports cell phone taxes are reaching an all-time high.  Nearby viewers in Pensacola, Fla. probably weren’t too happy to learn Florida is rated the 4th highest-taxed-state.  The Wireless Tax Fairness Act may prevent taxes from rising further, but it won’t stop existing fees.  Also included: Rep. Franks’ statement on the House floor introducing the bill and urging fellow members to support it.  (3 minutes)

Money Talks: More Dollar-a-Holler Advocacy for AT&T from the NAACP

Crumpton

NAACP national board member and former Missouri Public Service Commission member Harold Crumpton believes that combining AT&T and T-Mobile will create 100,000 new jobs, despite the fact both companies have promoted “cost savings” from eliminating redundant services and winning “increased efficiencies.”

That’s code language for layoffs, and it has been that way with every telecommunications merger in the last decade.  But Crumpton prefers to deny reality in a guest opinion piece published today in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Most mergers result in — and pay for themselves with — job losses and higher prices. Not this one.

If, to use the government antitrust lingo, there is a “relevant product market” for this merger, it would be “jobs” because jobs are the No. 1 product of the broadband factory. The AT&T and T-Mobile merger is structured as an engine of job creation — yielding 100,000 new jobs by delivering on President Obama’s call for a national high-speed broadband network. That’s far more jobs than would be lost because of AT&T and T-Mobile overlaps.

Ironically, AT&T announced the repatriation of 5,000 call center jobs and pledged not to terminate call center employees because of the merger. Two hours later, without warning to AT&T, the Justice Department filed its suit. Suffice to say that President Obama, our greatest champion of job creation, was not well-served that morning.

How will AT&T produce all these new jobs? By creating the first national next-generation high-speed (4G) mobile network. The merger is what will make the network possible, and it will do that by aggregating and redeploying spectrum T-Mobile can’t use for 4G. In this way, the network would reach 55 million more Americans than 4G currently reaches.

AT&T couldn’t have argued the case better.  Oh wait.  They have, in the company’s advocacy package mailed to the NAACP and dozens of other groups who receive the company’s financial support.  Those talking points inevitably end up in the guest editorials penned by Crumpton and others.

While the bloom is clearly off the rose of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, thanks in part to consumer groups and the U.S. Department of Justice who filed a lawsuit to stop it, AT&T is still flailing about trying to find some way to get the deal done, if only to avoid the outrageous break-up fee self-imposed by the telecommunications giant if the deal falls apart.  AT&T’s promise to bring an end to the obnoxious practice of offshoring their customer support call centers — if the merger gets approved — has been compared with blackmail by some customers who have spent an hour or more negotiating with heavily accented customer support agents that companies like Discover Card routinely mock.

AT&T promises customers a solution to the "Peggy Problem" if their merger with T-Mobile gets approved.

It clearly wasn’t enough to move critics of the deal to reconsider — AT&T could voluntarily hire American workers who speak the language of their customers for the benefit of those customers with or without a merger with the fourth largest wireless carrier in the country.

Crumpton argues President Obama was not well served by the Justice Department.  Consumer groups argue T-Mobile and AT&T’s customers will not be well-served if this merger ever happens.

As Stop the Cap! has repeatedly argued, both AT&T and T-Mobile will construct 4G mobile broadband networks in all of the places where the economics to deploy those networks makes sense.  No more, no less, no matter if AT&T and T-Mobile are two companies or one.

Crumpton might as well have argued the merger would deliver 4G service to Sprint customers as well.  It’s the same disconnected logic.

Crumpton thinks AT&T’s high-priced, heavily-capped 4G network will somehow solve the pervasive problem of the digital divide — the millions of poor Americans who can’t afford AT&T’s prices.  Incredibly, Crumpton’s answer is to allow one of the most price-aggressive, innovative carriers in the country favored by many budget-conscious consumers to be snapped up by the lowest rated, if not most-hated wireless company in the country.

It just doesn’t make sense.  But it does make dollars… for the NAACP, which receives boatloads of corporate money from AT&T.  It’s no surprise the pretzel-twisted logic that drives merger advocates like Mr. Crumpton comes fact-free.  The money makes up for all that.

“The NAACP stands ready to work with the public and private sectors to ensure that every American has an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from this awesome ‘broadband revolution,'” Crumpton writes.

We can only hope that is true.  The NAACP can get started by admitting publicly it receives substantial support from AT&T and it will either agree to remain neutral in corporate advocacy issues to avoid conflicts of interest, or return AT&T’s money.  After all, it sounds like they need it to build the digital divide-erasing 4G network Crumpton is purportedly so concerned about.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces $103 Million in Broadband Grants/Loans

Phillip Dampier August 29, 2011 Broadband Speed, Public Policy & Gov't, Rural Broadband, Wireless Broadband Comments Off

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced more than $103 million in federal grants and loans to 16 states to help expand broadband, or high-speed, Internet access to unserved and underserved areas of rural America:

Community Connect Grantee Community State Award Amount
R&S Communications LLC Vina Town Alabama $570,800
Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc. Birdsong Town Arkansas $570,800
Cable Partner.Net Inc. Whelen Springs Town Arkansas $570,800
Karuk Tribe Orleans California $1,141,870
Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc. Heidelberg Kentucky $576,400
Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc. Yellow Rock Kentucky $583,400
Inter Mountain Cable Inc. Endicott Kentucky $993,339
Nexus Systems Inc. Manifest Louisiana $1,116,505
Nexus Systems Inc. Larto Louisiana $1,116,505
Plateau Wireless LLC Olean Town Missouri $570,800
Plateau Wireless LLC Brumley Town Missouri $570,800
Arizona Nevada Tower Corporation Gabbs City Nevada $1,046,798
Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc. Stafford Village Ohio $570,800
Wichita Online Inc. Cornish Town Oklahoma $494,000
Wichita Online Inc. Tushka Town Oklahoma $480,000
Wichita Online Inc. Leon Town Oklahoma $481,000
Scott County Telephone Cooperative Flat Top Virginia $1,500,000
Crystal Broadband Networks, Inc. Panther West Virginia $571,900
Infrastructure Loan Awards
Wabash Telephone Exchange Illinois $21,867,000
The Hemingford Cooperative Telephone Co. Nebraska $10,280,000
Coleman County Telephone Cooperative Inc. Texas $22,540,000
Vernon Telephone Cooperative Wisconsin $24,143,000
Dubois Telephone Exchange Wyoming $11,391,000

The providers involved offer a mix of technology, ranging from traditional cable companies like Inter Mountain Cable and Crystal Broadband Networks — to Wireless ISPs like Wichita Online, serving southwestern Oklahoma, to rural telephone company DSL provided by companies like Hemingford Cooperative Telephone and the Coleman County Telephone Cooperative.

What most rural providers have in common are much-higher prices for slower speed service over what urban customers pay, and a regular need for resources to update capacity and the number of potential customers served.  Most of these grants and loans are expected to cover some of those costs.

Ouch. Rural Americans pay substantially higher prices for broadband service than city-dwellers do. This is current pricing from Inter Mountain Cable, which serves parts of rural Kentucky.

Kansas’ Law Allowing AT&T to Deregulate Itself Means Higher Phone Bills Are Imminent

Earlier this year, Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) signed legislation into law that allows AT&T to deregulate itself, and its rates, at will.  Kansas ratepayers are about to pay the price for that law as basic phone rates are expected to increase as much as $84 a year for residents that have few alternatives.

AT&T wants to eliminate price caps on landline service, which currently limit pre-tax prices to $15.70 in rural areas, $16.70 in larger Kansan cities with enhanced local calling areas.  After AT&T won similar deregulation in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Arkansas, AT&T has been regularly raising basic phone rates, which are now $5 to $7 more a month for basic service than before deregulation.

AT&T intends to divert much of the additional revenue away from upkeep of its landline network, which in several states it has won the right to abandon in rural areas, and use the money to enhance its cell phone network instead.

AT&T spokesman Aaron Catlin told The Wichita Eagle AT&T intends to supply communities currently bypassed by AT&T DSL with heavily usage capped, and much more expensive, 3G wireless broadband instead.

AT&T currently sells that service for $60 a month with a 5GB usage limit and an overlimit fee of $50 per gigabyte.

Catlin told the Eagle AT&T was excited with the possibilities, although rural Kansans facing those prices might not be.

“A lot of bad things are going to happen long-term,” Steve Rarrick, an attorney for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board told the newspaper. “Over time, they (customers) are going to see their phone bills go up. That’s been the experience of other states.”

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