Washington

AT&T Applauded for Broadband Investment Commitment

FCC, NTIA chiefs point to major broadband investments by industry 11/07/2012 01:33:04 PM Eastern

Washington reaction was swift
and positive to AT&T's commitment to invest $14 billion in building out its
wired and wireless broadband networks, including expanding its U-Verse video
service, which was announced Wednesday at an analyst conference in New York.

The
two government officials with primary oversight of the Obama Administration's
push for wired and wireless broadband buildout, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
and NTIA Chief Larry Strickling, weighed in.

Genachowski
essentially used the announcement as evidence that there is a healthy climate
for investment and innovation in the sector, which he has said FCC actions
under his tenure have promoted, and to spotlight FCC efforts.

"AT&T's
announcement of billions of dollars in new investment in wired and wireless
broadband networks is proof positive that the climate for investment and
innovation in the U.S. communications sector
is healthy," he said. "Today's announcement adds to nearly $200
billion of investment in wireless and wireline broadband networks since 2009,
and powerful growth in the Internet economy."

"Through
our groundbreaking steps to free up spectrum, our once-in-a-generation overhaul
of Universal Service, our phase-down of the byzantine and outdated intercarrier
compensation system, our Broadband Acceleration Initiative and numerous other
actions, we've taken major strides to promote private investment in broadband
networks," he said.

Strickling
gave props to the newly re-elected President as well as to AT&T.

"The
President set the ambitious goal that 98 percent of Americans should have
access to high-speed wireless Internet within five years," he said.
"He has put in place policies from freeing up spectrum for mobile
broadband to tax incentives to help speed up this process. AT&T's
commitment to further expand its broadband footprint is a promising step that,
together with other investments of private capital, will help achieve this
goal. We look forward to reviewing further details as they become available and
continuing to work to expand choices for consumers, increase competition, and
increase access to high-speed broadband."

Harold
Feld, senior VP of Public Knowledge, who has never been shy about criticizing
telecom companies when he thinks they are being anticompetitive, had plenty of
praise for AT&T's announcement, though he attributed some of that to the
government's blocking of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

"AT&T
is to be applauded for investing in its network and breathing new life into DSL and rural
wireless," he said. "This investment will not only create new jobs
and bring broadband to the heartland, it has the potential to revive
competition with cable broadband at a time when many had concluded we were
doomed to a cable monopoly."

But
Feld also gave the FCC and Justice some of the credit for the announcement.

"However,
AT&T would not have made this investment if it had solved its problems
through consolidation by buying T-Mobile. To get the merger through, AT&T
promised to invest $8 billion in the combined network, and leaked documents
during the merger review suggested the actual investment would have been closer
to $3 billion. By blocking the merger, the Department of Justice and the FCC
have increased AT&T's investment in its network.

 

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