Gigabit Cities

AT&T GigaPower Awaits Regulatory Resolution

AT&T chief Randall Stephenson has signaled his company's distaste for President Obama's recent call for regulating the Internet by putting the brakes on a major nationwide expansion and upgrade of its fiber network. His comments are the latest indication that the new net neutrality debate is likely to slow carrier spending in the near term. (See Cisco's Chambers: Title II Net Neutrality Talk Already Hurting.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) CEO Stephenson declared at a Wells Fargo financial conference yesterday that the carrier would temporarily halt its plans to expand its 1Gbit/s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) expansion, called GigaPower. "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," he said, according to a Reuters report. "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."

An AT&T spokeswoman said the carrier had no further comment on the carrier's GigaPower plans.

Earlier this week, President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt strong net neutrality rules for both wireline and wireless providers, including regulations that would reclassify broadband access as a vital, utility-like service under what is known as Title II and prohibit providers from implementing measures like throttling web traffic and creating and charging for so-called "fast lanes." (See Obama Backs Net Neutrality, Stuns Industry.)

For the latest on Gigabit Cities, visit Light Reading's Broadband/FTTx content channel. And watch for forthcoming details on Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event, to be held in May 2015 in Atlanta.

Obama's comments triggered response throughout the communications industry. Battle lines are being drawn between those that welcome a more aggressive regulatory approach -- particularly on interconnection issues -- and broadband ISPs like AT&T that say such rules threaten investment. Meanwhile, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has publicly stated that he is seeking a middle ground on the issue. (See Wheeler: Between a Rock and a Hard Place.)

It remains to be seen whether other large telecom and cable operators might follow AT&T's lead and protest the possibility of the regulatory changes by slowing down or altering their deployment plans. The typically mum Google Fiber Inc. remains such, beyond an announced intention this week to expand its network to businesses in the Kansas City market. (See Google Fiber Means Business in KC.)

Competitive providers like Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) that rely on interconnection to incumbent local providers' networks have lauded the president's stance, according to the Wall Street Journal.

— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading

mhhf1ve 11/14/2014 | 6:11:11 PM
Re: Internet Postal Service

I would approve of guaranteeing some minimal access as a kind of Postal Service and Emergency Broadcast Network.

I think there will eventually be some kind of USPS vs Fedex analogy with internet service... Tiered services will exist for different customers paying for different speeds, and as the pipes do get smarter with SDN/NFV utilization, it should be *EASIER* for operators to provide baseline services to everyone (without artificial throttling). However, I understand that the details of how these baseline services are defined is still very much an open question.....

And although you can't delivery water wirelessly... I assume wireless spectrum will be next in getting a title2 treatment someday... as wireless broadband becomes more affordable to deploy.

mhhf1ve 11/14/2014 | 6:06:03 PM
Re: Internet Postal Service

However, I am a little perplexed by a mandate for everyone to be guaranteed the highest and fastest service, no matter the ability to pay.

I'm a bit puzzled about where you got that mandate from? Putting the internet under Title2 with forbearance doesn't say that. And many of the ISPs already operate under Title2 rules.

I don't think anyone has stated that everyone will be guaranteed the best service -- only that there can be no discrimination or throttling. ISPs can't purposefully make Netflix slower than their own streaming video. Does that mean ISPs are required to give Netflix 1Gbps speeds everywhere? I don't think so....

jabailo 11/13/2014 | 2:41:46 PM
Internet Postal Service I understand a need for Everyone to have Internet access in this day and age.  The Postal Service was created in 1775 and eventually given a mandate to reach each and every household in America -- because basic communication is the foundation of our society.

However, I am a little perplexed by a mandate for everyone to be guaranteed the highest and fastest service, no matter the ability to pay.  Moreover, it seems like Government does not understand that the current networking situation is far more dynamic and less "mature" so that, as they are fond of saying, they can turn it into a utlity.  For example, I know of only one way to delive water to the home, a pipe.  There is no wireless water to compete with pipes.

That said, I would approve of guaranteeing some minimal access as a kind of Postal Service and Emergency Broadcast Network.   I don't see why such a network could not be made available at little cost, but without the super high speed capabilities of a video entertainment delivery system.  And this system, not more than ever, could be built using SDN. 

As long as mainly text web pages could be read, social media accessed, Wikipedia used for school and email received, doesn't that create the equivalent of an e-Postal Service?  And, given basic access, should the Free Market then not be allowed to set its prices in a competitive fashion?


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