FCC: Bamboozled(?) boss backs behemoth AT&T deal

ifstone weeklyTom Wheeler embarrasses himself claiming AT&T is making a major concession on upgrading to fttb. I don’t know if Wheeler has been bamboozled or is telling a politician’s truth. AT&T’s 8-12M premises are about what they would offer anyway. G.fast is ready in 2016 to bring speeds of 400-700 megabits for $75-$250 anywhere there’s fiber to the basement. Randall Stephenson would be stupid not to upgrade at that price. Randall isn’t stupid.

Most of the 8.3M homes promised already have fiber to the basement, which AT&T has routinely installed for most of the last decade in “all new builds.” (Randall Stephenson, then CFO, in 2004.) The new builds during the four years of the program plus the fiber run as part of AT&T’s Project VIP reach more than enough homes to meet this figure.

AT&T decided at least a year ago to do the upgrades, whether or not DirecTV is approved. They’ve already done the expensive part of the build, running the fiber to the basement. They were ready to go two years ago but decided to wait for G.fast to be ready. There are dozens of G.fast trials underway with British Telecom ready to do 15M lines starting early in 2016. 

If you know the technology and industry, it becomes obvious that T will do all of most of the homes whether or not the DirecTV deal goes down. I’ve confirmed through several sources that’s exactly what AT&T plans. Cable is widely going to 400 megabits down (shared) in the next 12 months and a gigabit (shared) soon after. T needs to stay in the game.

Wheeler may not know his comments (below) are somewhere between disingenuous and completely bogus. AT&T’s Jim Cicconi is one of history’s best lobbyists and regularly convinces people 2+2=5.

Verizon and AT&T both have an influence budget of over $100M/year, spent very effectively ensuring those who agree with AT&T dominate the discussion inside the beltway. The 10 FCC staffers AT&T has dealt with on this recently (list below) are generally brilliant, dedicated lawyers but they don’t know either technology or the industry. It’s possible that no one at the FCC caught the AT&T spin. 

Alternately, Wheeler is a politician and he’s telling a “politician’s truth.” In D.C., that’s called “framing the question.” I.F. Stone taught my generation of journalists “All governments lie.” When the truth doesn’t serve, politicians “compromise.”

None of the D.C. reporters have picked this up as far as I know.  


Here’s Craig Moffett’s explanation why he estimates only 8.3M homes when AT&T offers a higher number. Among other things, T counts vacant apartments.

“Lastly, we can simply look at the change that occurred when AT&T changed its methodology in 2012, where 52 million living units were converted into 76 million customer locations.  The 52 million passings they used to report seem to be more closely correlated with the rest of the industry’s definition of passings, which was 68% of the new metric.

Although none of these methods are perfect, they are reasonably consistent.  We therefore adjust AT&T’s reported commitment downward by 29%, and assume that their GigaPower build will be closer to 8.3 million homes.” 

These 10 FCC staffers were recently pitched by AT&T on the merger.  

Jamillia Ferris

Susan Singer

Elizabeth Andrion

Scott Jordan

Jonathan Sallet

Stephanie Weiner.

Martha Heller

Melanie Godschall

Christopher Sova

Royce Sherlock

And what AT&T claims they said to them.

During the calls, the participants discussed the substantial, direct, and verifiable benefits that the AT&T/DIRECTV merger will deliver to tens of millions of consumers. The participants also discussed Applicants’ voluntary commitments that will provide the Commission with further assurance that the transaction will serve the public interest and deliver benefits to consumers. The Commission should promptly approve the transaction so that consumers can begin to enjoy the resulting pro-competitive, public interest benefits. 

This is Tom Wheeler’s mistaken statement.

Kim Hart, (202) 418-8191

For Immediate Release



Washington, July 21, 2015

– In light of news reports concerning the AT&T/DirecTV 
transaction, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued the following statement: 
“An order recommending that the AT&T/DirecTV transaction be approved with conditions has 
circulated to the Commissioners. The proposed order outlines a number of conditions that will 
directly benefit consumers by bringing more competition to the broadband marketplace. If the 
conditions are approved by my colleagues, 12.5 million customer locations will have access to a 
competitive high-speed fiber connection. This additional build-out is about 10 times the size of 
AT&T’s current fiber-to-the-premise deployment, increases the entire nation’s residential fiber 
build by more than 40 percent, and more than triples the number of metropolitan areas AT&T has 
announced plans to serve.
“In addition, the conditions will build on the Open Internet Order already in effect, addressing 
two merger-specific issues. First, in order to prevent discrimination against online video 
competition, AT&T will not be permitted to exclude affiliated video services and content from 
data caps on its fixed broadband connections. Second, in order to bring greater transparency to 
interconnection practices, the company will be required to submit all completed interconnection 
agreements to the Commission, along with regular reports on network performance.
“Importantly, we will require an independent officer to help ensure compliance with these and 
other proposed conditions. These strong measures will protect consumers, expand high-speed 
broadband availability, and increase competition.”




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