AT&T Takes the Money and Runs

October 4, 2020

Our first story today comes from a recent report from ArsTechnica that details how AT&T received over $428 million dollars from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund to expand its network in more than 133,000 locations in Mississippi, but the Mississippi Public Service Commissions said that it has evidence that AT&T’s fixed-wireless broadband is not available to all the homes and businesses to which AT&T promised increased services. One Mississippi PSC Commissioner, Brandon Presley, says that AT&T has merely pocketed over $283 million from tax payers without performing the work. These allegations were reported to the Federal Communications Commission by all three Mississippi PSC commissioners, listing exact addresses that were still without service, well after AT&T had falsely reported that service had been extended to those exact locations. The FCC’s Connect America Fund states that upgrades and service area expansions must “deliver broadband at speeds of at least 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads to over 1.1 million homes and businesses in its rural services areas” in 18 states. This funding was allocated in 2015 and carried a completion date of 2020. Of those 18 states, Mississippi was included and now says the work didn’t happen. In the end, ArsTechnica reports that this is not the first time AT&T has falsely reported numbers. In April of 2020 AT&T disclosed to the FCC that it had falsely reported providing home-based Internet service to almost 3,600 census blocks spread across part of 20 states, including Mississippi. AT&T is also fighting the FCC on requirements of “drive tests” to validate its mobile coverage area. 

DJ’s Take

My fellow Engineers, we have to watch these companies. We can’t do it alone. This require governmental oversight. These companies are so large they can no longer be trusted. These companies act monopolistic in some areas and lobby regulators to keep it that way, going as far as to lobby hard against municipal fiber in many areas. They are ultimately only beholden to their share holders and profit–not customers. Our society and county has created an unsustainable market that measures fiscal success based on growth and not true sustainability in the market. That kind of incentive will continue to erode consumer trust when these sorts of scandals surface and show us how these companies are operating against us. They take public, tax-funded money out of our pockets and then don’t do what is even required of them by contractual terms. Just imagine what would happen to your job or your company if you did not comply with contractual obligations. That is why governments on every level have to hold these companies accountable. City, County and Parish, State, and Federal governments have to step up and represent us. We Engineers are a minority, but we have to speak up for us and our users. If your representatives won’t comply, you know what to do: vote them out. In the end, it’s not often that great things come out of Mississippi, but these PSC Commissioners earned their pay this year if they can make sure this struck match catches fire.

Ian’s Take

This country has a revolving door when it comes to to regulating these Telco’s and ISPs.  More often than not, the the high ranking executives of these companies who share in the profits, turn around and become lobbyist to keep the grift going.  

I am not a fan of AT&T’s business practices and in doing research for this story, I discovered more instances of AT&T’s failures in the marketplace.   

On Oct. 1, AT&T stopped selling digital-subscriber-line connections, stranding many existing subscribers on those low-speed links and leaving new residents of DSL-only areas without any wired broadband.

The FCC has issued a 25-Mbps broadband mandate and the US is nowhere near this in the year 2020.  It’s quite shocking to be honest.  If the USA is to compete on a global scale, the Internet needs to be treated as a utility with guaranteed SLAs of decent service.  

An ArsTechnica reader puts it best when it he says:

To close the digital divide, we must know the contours of where the divide starts and ends. We need to telescope our broadband maps from the macro, census-block level to the micro, building level to understand with more precision where broadband is unavailable.  – John Stankey

When they say they don’t know where they lack broadband capabilities, my first response is to ask them to check their coverage maps. Is this some kind of joke?
AT&T is not acting in the best interest of the consumer and now is proposing putting ads in exchange for a “discount” on their mobile bill.

“I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey said. 

Consumers DO NOT WANT ads on their mobile phones. Ads are ineffective. Make a better product.  Provide better service. Take the money you have already received from the consumers and government.  Stop wasting it on Television commercials virtue signaling and do your job!!

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