Gigabit Cities

AT&T Goes Extra Broadband Mile

With its drive to close the DirecTV deal now in the home stretch, AT&T is making broadband promises to US federal regulators right and left.

As first reported by DSL Reports on Monday, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is pledging to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it will offer its gigabit service, GigaPower, to 11.7 million homes and businesses if its $48.5 billion deal to buy DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) is approved. In the filing, AT&T is also promising to give the FCC updates on the plan's progress every 90 days and complete the fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) buildout for GigaPower within four years.

Previously, AT&T, which has launched GigaPower in parts of about a dozen markets throughout the US, had promised to deploy the 1-Gig symmetrical service over fiber links to an additional 2 million homes if the DirecTV purchase was approved. So this new commitment seems to represent a sizable increase over its previous commitments with its top U-verse broadband service.

The only problem is that AT&T has never actually spelled out how many customer locations it planned to reach with GigaPower before. So, as DSL Reports points out, it's pretty difficult to tell from the new, heavily redacted regulatory filing just how many more homes and businesses, if any, the big telco is now pledging to reach.

So far, AT&T has mainly focused on extending GigaPower to new and high-end housing developments in markets where it already has fiber lines in the ground. The company has not yet said how many locations it reaches or how many customers it has signed up for GigaPower.

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At the same time that it's making new promises to regulators about its high-end broadband service, AT&T is making similar pledges about its low-end broadband products. In another recent filing with the FCC, the carrier is promising to make two new low-income discount programs available to qualifying consumers in its wireline footprint for four years.

Under the first proposed program, AT&T would offer DSL service with speeds up to 5 Mbit/s to low-income homes in its wireline footprint for just $10 a month for the first year. The monthly price would then rise to $20. This program would be offered in areas where the telco already deploys broadband service at speeds exceeding 3 Mbit/s.

The second proposed program calls for AT&T to offer DSL service with speeds up to 1.5 Mbit/s to low-income households in its wireline footprint for only $5 a month for the first year. The monthly fee would then climb to $10. The carrier would offer this program in areas where it already deploys broadband service at top speeds below 5 Mbit/s.

AT&T made these commitments after company officials met late last month with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and her staff. In that meeting, Clyburn expressed her desire to see the merged company offer an affordable, lower-priced, standalone broadband service to low-income consumers.

The FCC is widely expected to approve the AT&T/DirecTV pact, following the US Department of Justice's reported sign-off on the deal last week. So the negotiations and lobbying are now focusing on the conditions and commitments that AT&T will have to meet once the merger goes through. (See AT&T-DirecTV Deal Nearing Approval .)

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, >Light Reading

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