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AT&T’s stunningly shameless new take on net neutrality

Published May 18th, 2015 12:17PM EDT
AT&T Vs. FCC Net Neutrality Regulations

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All big companies spin the truth in ridiculous ways, but every once in a while a company will try to distort reality in such a way that you just have to tip your cap in awe. Such was the case this week when AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson explained why his company plans to move forward with $18 billion worth of broadband investments despite the fact that the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year passed what he and his fellow big carriers depicted as investment-destroying net neutrality regulations.

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In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Stephenson said AT&T wasn’t worried about the FCC’s net neutrality rules hurting its ability to make major investments because those rules are likely to get overturned by the courts anyway.

“We have seen the way the rules came out, … and as we read those rules we do believe they are subject to modification by the courts,” he said. “So we’ve said we’re going to invest around $18 billion this year. That will allow us to deploy a wireless broadband solution to 13 million homes around the U.S.”

Of course, if AT&T has always been so confident that either the courts or Congress will throw out the FCC’s net neutrality rules, you have to wonder why it made such a huge stink about them in the first place.

Here, for example, is AT&T senior executive VP Jim Cicconi earlier this year talking about the horrible cloud of uncertainty the FCC’s vote had placed over the entire industry.

“Instead of a clear set of rules moving forward, with a broad set of agreement behind them, we once again face the uncertainty of litigation, and the very real potential of having to start over – again – in the future,” he wrote.

Granted, Cicconi also said it was very likely the the courts or Congress would throw out the FCC’s rules. But, unlike Stephenson, he didn’t see that as a positive because it would have just resulted in even more uncertainty and turmoil. Does that sound like the kind of environment where AT&T would happily invest $18 billion more into making network improvements?

Of course, AT&T isn’t the only carrier that has screamed about investment-killing net neutrality regulations while also spending significant cash to upgrade its networks. Comcast, for instance, revealed that it plans to bring a 2Gbps fiber service to as many as 18 million American homes by the end of the year. This is obviously not the sort of thing you’d expect to see announced if the FCC’s net neutrality rules were really as draconian as many ISPs had claimed and Comcast made this announcement well after the FCC made its final decision on net neutrality.

In fact, these sorts of things make us think that ISPs were seriously exaggerating the supposed threat posed by net neutrality to their bottom lines. Who would have thought?

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.


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