Thursday, June 11, 2015

AT&T’s planned “wireless local loop” plant could help it meet its Title II universal service obligation

When AT&T began the regulatory review process of its planned acquisition of DirecTV one year ago, it proposed to offer fixed wireless Internet service to about 13 million residential premises in its service territory not offered Internet service in order to improve the deal’s odds of gaining approval. These premises were never offered AT&T’s legacy ADSL service after it was introduced more than a decade ago. And even if they were today, ADSL would fall far short the Federal Communications Commission’s speed-based minimum standard for Internet service of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps up.

Image result for at7tNow that the FCC’s rules deeming Internet a common carrier telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act are going into effect requiring Internet service providers to “furnish such communication service upon reasonable request” under Title II’s universal service and nondiscrimination provisions, AT&T may be seeking another, more important role for its planned “wireless local loop” fixed wireless plant. 

Specifically, helping it meet its universal service obligations. With so many premises in its service territory refused Internet service for a decade or longer, AT&T could face a potential barrage of complaints and penalties if these premises remain without premises Internet service and it continues to say no to service requests.

However, as arstechnica reports today, AT&T’s fixed wireless service is expected to provide connectivity of up to 20 Mbps – below the FCC’s minimum standard for Internet service. The only way to get more wireless bandwidth is more fiber backhaul bandwidth and/or more wireless transmitters. That means AT&T would likely have to spend more than it would like on its planned “wireless local loop” plant to bring service up to the FCC’s standard in order to keep itself out of hot water with regulators.

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