Following the statements this week made by President Obama and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler regarding the possibility of reclassifying broadband providers under the Title II regulations of the Communications Act for utilities, AT&T has decided to pause its planned rollout of its new U-Verse GigaPower fiber service until the expected legal wrangling over the issue is settled once and for all. Speaking to Reuters, CEO Randall Stephenson made the following statement:
“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed. We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules would look like.”
AT&T also reacted to the Obama and Wheeler statements on the Net Neutrality push this week by threatening legal action if any attempt was made at Title II classification for broadband providers along with other carriers; this latest move means that AT&T does indeed feel threatened by the new push, since being reclassified as a utility would mean it would not enjoy the advantages it currently has as a broadband provider.
Without those advantages in infrastructure control and local monopoly power, it would be forced to compete against local competitors and resellers, much like its namesake predecessor did when the Bell System was broken up in the 80’s, which led to competition and growth in the telephony sector that drove down prices for local and long-distance calling.