We’ve seen some obvious cases of companies fleecing (or at least attempting to fleece) the American people and the U.S. Government in the past, but AT&T appears to be going for bonus points with its newest proposal to hook up parts of California with outdated DSL service. And AT&T isn’t going to provide the infrastructure for DSL service out the goodness of its heart; it’s asking California taxpayers to fork over upwards $100 million to get the job done.
That’s right, AT&T is asking taxpayers to foot a $100 million bill for Internet service that at best will get customers 10Mbps down and 1Mbps up. The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), provides grants to Internet service providers to connect citizens in “unserved and underserved areas,” but specifies that service must be “[offered at] advertised speeds of at least 6 mbps download and 1.5 mbps upload.” In the case of AT&T DSL, it wouldn’t even qualify on the latter stat, but it’s still pushing forward.
And if we were to take the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) definition of broadband access into account, AT&T’s service would fall well short — the FCC defines broadband access at 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up.
But that isn’t stopping AT&T lobbyists from rewriting Assembly Bill 2130 in order to not only take in millions of dollars that likely wouldn’t even be audited to see if they are going towards DSL infrastructure, but to also ensure that its competition doesn’t get a fair shake. According to Steve Blum, Assembly Bill 2130 would in effect torpedo the competing Assembly Bill 1758, which adds taxpayer funds to the CASF and raises the minimum broadband standard to 25/1, effectively matching the FCC’s broadband definition.
While AT&T’s cable and fiber competition could reach the 25/1 threshold with little effort, AT&T would have to pour a lot of resources into matching that standard — and if it failed to do so, it would be ineligible for the lucrative subsidies.