FCC seeks fiber-optic delay data from AT&T

Letter is from the FCC attorney working on AT&T's deal to buy DirecTV

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday formally requested that AT&T provide all documents and data related to its planned fiber-optic cable buildouts nationwide.

The request came following this week's public statements by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who said that AT&T would delay its fiber-optic buildouts in 100 cities nationwide while the FCC considers Net neutrality rules under its Open Internet Proceeding.

Stephenson said the delay could be two to three years to allow time to monitor the full fallout of any decision, but he said the delay wouldn’t include AT&T fiber-optic buildouts to homes that are part of a negotiation to buy DirecTV.

AT&T joined other wireless carriers and Internet service providers in opposing rules proposed on Monday by President Obama to prevent ISPs from throttling Internet traffic or charging fees to prioritize traffic.

Stephenson was among the most vocal this week in attacking Obama’s recommendations that called for the FCC to regulate ISPs like telecommunications carriers under Title II provisions of the Telecommunications Act.

The FCC's letter asks AT&T to provide data related to the carrier’s plans for fiber optic deployments, including the number of households to which it planned to deploy fiber prior to limiting the deployments to the DirecTV commitments. The FCC quoted Stephenson as saying the DirecTV fiber commitments totaled 2 million households.

The letter also asks for AT&T to state whether its investments in fiber are now unprofitable. In addition, it asks for all documents related to the company’s decision to limit deployment to the DirecTV households.

The letter is signed by FCC attorney Jamillia Ferris. She manages the review of the AT&T-DirecTV transaction, which Stephenson said on Friday could be finalized in the second quarter of 2015.

Given Ferris’ role, the request for AT&T documents is more pertinent to the purchase of DirecTV than to the FCC’s consideration of Net neutrality rules. Some critics of AT&T have argued that Stephenson’s comments on fiber-optic delays are bogus and that the 100 cities that Stephenson said are subject to delays might not have been ready for construction to begin.

An AT&T official in North Carolina said this week that a fiber-optic Next Generation Network initiative there will continue.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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