AT & T’s phase-out of DSL leaves poor rural users behind


AT&T has deployed Fiber optic internet to the home to less than 30 percent of homes in its 21-state territory, according to a new report however, AT&T has targeted wealthy, non-rural areas in its fiber upgrades.

The report, co-authored by an AT&T workers’ union and rights group, comes at the right time, being released just days after AT&T confirmed it will stop connecting new customers to its aging DSL network. This does not mean that customers in DSL areas will benefit from fiber, because AT&T said last year it was mainly a question of expanding its fiber service. AT&T said at the time that it would gradually expand fiber, but only in areas where it makes financial sense for AT&T to do so. We will provide more details on DSL cutout later in this article. In short, the fiber / copper hybrid known as AT&T Internet is still being offered to new customers, but the slower product sold by AT&T under the name DSL is discontinued, except for existing customers.

Citing data that ISPs are required to submit To the Federal Communications Commission, the report released this week indicated that AT&T had built fiber-to-the-home in 28% of homes in its footprint, as of June 30, 2019. The report was written by the Communications Workers of America. (CWA), a union that represents AT&T employees, and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), an advocacy group that has been following AT&T broadband deployments for years. Groups say AT&T has left rural areas and low-income people with old and inadequate broadband services.

There are 52.97 million homes in AT & T’s home internet service area, and 14.93 million of them have fiber-to-the-home access, CWA told Ars. Fiber percentages were particularly bad in some states, with rates ranging from 14 to 16 percent in Michigan, Illinois, Mississippi and Arkansas, according to the CWA / NDIA report.

“In the predominantly rural counties of AT & T’s national footprint, only 5% of households (217,284 out of 4,442,675) have access to fiber,” the report said. In urban areas, the situation is better but not without problems. “Seventy percent of households in urban counties still do not have access to AT & T’s fiber, as the company has only made fiber available to 14.7 million households out of 48.4 million homes in total in these counties, ”the report said.

AT&T upgrades leave the poor behind

NDIA research in previous years has drawn attention to “digital redlining“in cities such as Cleveland and Detroit, where the wealthiest city dwellers are prioritized for fiber upgrades. The new report found much the same.

“AT&T prioritizes network upgrades to richer areas, leaving low-income communities with outdated technology.

AT&T can provide decent broadband speeds without building fiber to every home, with a fiber-to-the-node approach that minimizes the use of copper telephone cables. But there are still many areas where AT&T does not offer FCC standard service of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The almost 6 year old 25/3 Mbps standard has been heavily criticized by consumer advocates, who say it is no longer fast enough to be considered modern broadband, but it would be a big step forward for many in AT&T territory.

“For 28% of homes on its network, AT & T’s Internet service does not meet the FCC’s 25/3 Mbps benchmark to be considered broadband,” the CWA / NDIA report said.

Some customers in AT & T’s territory are fortunate enough to have a cable operator capable of providing modern speeds. But even for them, AT & T’s failure to deploy fiber means that they “are deprived of the competitive advantages in terms of price, choice and quality of service,” according to the report. Lack of competition is particularly hard on low-income people, the report says:

“Without competition for market share, there is little incentive for providers to expand the market by recruiting and supporting new broadband users, for example by promoting discount programs for low-income people or by investing in community digital inclusion partnerships. NDIA Affiliates find that members of their community who qualify for AT&T’s low-income discount offer, Access from AT&T, often find that the data speeds available at home are too slow for video applications. intensives they need for school, work and telemedicine. “

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