By Roz Brown
Texas Press Service
AUSTIN, Texas – AT&T customers in Texas are at risk of losing service after the telecommunications giant announced it was removing its high-speed internet from the digital subscriber line.
This move could leave around 470,000 DSL customers with few options as AT&T is no longer accepting new DSL orders. At the same time, existing customers can no longer change the speed of their service.
Brian Thorn, senior researcher at Communication Workers of America, said that only certain DSL customers will have access to another wireline service from AT&T.
“It’s important to know and understand the full impact of this decision, because how many customers will be moving to fiber optic and how many will be moving to lower quality fixed wireless products,” Thorn said.
Thorn is particularly concerned that rural residents and rural economies could find themselves stranded without access to a reliable internet. He said that unlike copper telephone lines, which reach virtually all parts of the country, cable and fiber-optic internet networks are mostly accessible in urban areas.
In Texas, about 60% of households in AT&T service areas do not have access to high-speed fiber.
The Trump administration’s 2018 Internet Freedom Restoration Order relaxed previous regulations that would have allowed the government to prevent providers from removing services in parts of the country without Internet options. Thorn said it left many customers helpless during the pandemic.
“There were rules that protected customers when transitioning from a provider to a new network,” he said. “And without these rules, there is little recourse for customers who want some sort of liability from AT&T or their ISP.”
An added thorn in small rural areas, the existing copper DSL line is used by local businesses, which may no longer be able to process credit cards or make ATM deposits.