AT&T kills DSL, leaves tens of millions of homes without fiber optic internet


AT&T has rolled out fiber-to-the-home Internet to less than 30% 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 get fiber, as AT&T said last year that it has mainly completed the extension of its fiber service. AT&T said at the time that it would only expand fiber gradually, 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 product slower than AT&T sells as DSL is discontinued, except for existing customers.

Citing data that ISPs are required to submit to the Federal Communications Commission, the report released today indicated that AT&T had built fiber-to-the-home for 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 tracking 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 fiber because the company has only made fiber available to 14.7 million households out of 48.4 million of households in total in these counties, ”the report said.

AT&T upgrades leave the poor behind

NDIA research in previous years has drawn attention to AT & T’s ‘digital red line’ in cities such as Cleveland and Detroit, where wealthier city dwellers are prioritized for upgrades. fiber. The new report found much the same.

“AT&T prioritizes network upgrades in 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 nearly six-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 people in AT&T territory.

“For 28% of the homes on its network, AT & T’s Internet service does not meet the FCC’s 25/3 Mbps standard 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, providers have little incentive to expand the market by recruiting and supporting new broadband users, for example by promoting discount programs for low income or investing in community partnerships. digital inclusion. NDIA Affiliates find that members of their community eligible 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 intensive video applications which they need for school, work and telemedicine.

Cable giants Comcast and Charter took advantage of the failure of telecom operators like AT&T to upgrade tens of millions of homes to fiber optic services, giving cable companies de facto monopolies in many areas. regions of the United States. AT&T has approximately 15.2 million Internet subscribers, compared to 29.4 million for Comcast and 28.1 million for Charter.

In mid-2015, the Federal Communications Commission asked AT&T to deploy fiber to 12.5 million customers in exchange for approval of its purchase of DirecTV. As the CWA / NDIA report noted, “AT&T largely halted its nationwide development of fiber to residential homes in mid-2019 after fulfilling the conditions imposed by the FCC following the acquisition of DirecTV “. AT&T has also received billions of dollars in grants from the FCC and has been accused of not deploying all the broadband it was obligated to provide.

We contacted AT&T this morning and will update this article if we get a response.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. ET: AT&T provided the following statement:

Our investment decisions are based on the capacity needs of our network and the demand for our services. We do not apply a “red line” to Internet access and any suggestions we make are wrong. We have invested more in the United States over the past 5 years (2015-2019) than any other public company. We have spent over $ 125 billion on our wireless and wireline networks in the United States, including capital investments and the acquisition of spectrum and wireless operations. Our 5G network provides high-speed Internet access across the country, our fiber network serves over 18 million customer sites, and we continue to invest in expanding both networks.

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