AT&T points to Obama’s net neutrality remarks as cause to pause fiber buildout

net neutrality


AT&T has put a temporary pause on its fiber buildout saying that the uncertain nature of the net neutrality debate, in light of President Obama’s statements about regulating consumer broadband under common carrier rules, leaves it little choice.


“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,” said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson at a Wells Fargo conference. “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,” he added.


Obama called for increased regulation of consumer broadband under Title II rules that would prohibit content blocking or throttling, as well as paid-prioritization deals. It would apply those rules wireline and mobile networks, as opposed to only fixed broadband, a new twist in the discussion.


AT&T last year announced plans to expand fiber to more than 100 cities. On Friday, however, before Obama’s comments, AT&T announced it was cutting capex spending by about $3 billion.

AT&T also has been dinged by the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly throttling the speed of some mobile users on unlimited data contracts.


The Federal Trade Commission has filed a federal court complaint against AT&T Mobility alleging the company misled millions of its smartphone customers, charging them for “unlimited” data plans but cutting data speeds by up to 90% when they crossed usage thresholds.


Meanwhile, the president’s remarks may have him on a collision course with Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler, whose net neutrality proposal is a bit less encompassing.


In a meeting Tuesday, Wheeler told some Web execs in Washington that his proposal will provide “an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business,” but also takes into mind the business needs of major broadband providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon, among others, reported the Washington Post.


“What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby,” he reportedly said.