AT&T lectures Google Fiber about challenges of broadband investment

Jon Brodkin
Workers with massive spools of fiber optic cable.
AT&T celebrated Google Fiber's reported struggles yesterday by publishing a blog post lecturing its competitor about the difficulties of broadband investment. AT&T also criticized Google for seeking favors from the government—something AT&T would never do, of course.
The blog post is titled "Broadband investment: Not for the faint of heart" and is written by AT&T VP Joan Marsh, who manages AT&T's regulatory interests at the federal government. It provides a timeline of Google investment in broadband infrastructure starting with a bid on spectrum in 2007, saying that the company has never lived up to its grand ambitions. The latest example is Google Fiber, which has reportedly fallen well short of subscriber goals and may be downsizing. (Google hasn't confirmed or denied the reports of impending layoffs.)
AT&T says the "moral of the story" is that "building reliable, ubiquitous high-speed broadband connectivity is tough."
"Google Fiber will no doubt continue its broadband experiments, while coming up with excuses for its shortcomings and learning curves," AT&T wrote. "It will also no doubt continue to seek favoritism from government at every level. Just last week Google Fiber threatened the Nashville City Council that it would stop its fiber build if an ordinance Google Fiber drafted wasn’t passed. Instead of playing by the same rules as everyone else building infrastructure, Google Fiber demands special treatment and indeed in some places is getting it, unfairly."
AT&T knows a few things about demanding favors from the government. In February, when some legislators in Tennessee unsuccessfully tried to overturn a law that helps AT&T avoid competition by preventing expansion of municipal broadband networks, AT&T lobbied to keep the law in place. At the time, a Republican state senator described AT&T as "the most powerful lobbying organization in this state by far." In Missouri, AT&T donated $62,500 to lawmakers months before a vote to limit municipal broadband.
A Google Fiber spokesperson declined comment on AT&T's blog post, though the root cause of Google Fiber's Nashville problems involve AT&T. The telecom giant is able to delay Google Fiber's access to utility poles, so Google is seeking an ordinance that would let it attach wires to poles without AT&T involvement even when AT&T wires need to be moved. AT&T is fighting the ordinance in Nashville and already sued the government in Louisville, Kentucky, to stop a similar rule that gave Google Fiber faster access to utility poles there.
AT&T's blog post yesterday also scoffed at Google Fiber's purchase of Webpass, a wireless Internet provider. Using wireless technology could help Google Fiber avoid pole attachment problems and deploy Internet service faster. But AT&T predicted that Google Fiber will "discover that wireless networks are expensive to build as well and learn that microwave broadband may work well in dense urban areas, particularly where supported by higher-cost commercial services, but offers tougher economics when trying to serve residential customers."
AT&T concluded that "Google Fiber still complains it’s too hard… and costs too much… and takes too long… even as it’s reported that Google Fiber will now try to do all this with half its current workforce. Meanwhile, without excuses or finger-pointing, and without presenting ultimatums to cities in exchange for service, AT&T continues to deploy fiber and to connect our customers to broadband services in communities across the country. Welcome to the broadband network business, Google Fiber. We’ll be watching your next move from our rear view mirror. Oh, and pardon our dust."
AT&T's discussion of complaints and ultimatums didn't include its own reaction when the FCC debated whether to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers and impose net neutrality rules. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson claimed in November 2014 that the company would have to "pause" investments in fiber networks because of the proposed rules and made a similar claim in 2010. While the FCC shelved the common carrier idea in 2010, it finally reclassified ISPs in February 2015. AT&T sued and lost but has vowed to take it to the Supreme Court.
AT&T boasted in yesterday's blog post that it hasn't stopped investing in fiber, suggesting that its threat of a "pause" wasn't purely a complaint or ultimatum but was rather a failed bluff.
AT&T lectures Google Fiber about challenges of broadband investment Reviewed by Bizpodia on 15:56 Rating: 5

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