AT&T gives investors and gov’t wildly different takes on need for fiber Internet

Enlarge / A sign in front of an AT&T retail store on May 17, 2021, in San Rafael, California. (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan)

AT&T says fiber Internet is a “superior” technology that is built for today and the future because of its ability to deliver symmetrical upload and download speeds of 1Gbps and higher. AT&T also says that “there is no compelling evidence” to support the deployment of fiber across the US and that rural people should be satisfied with nonfiber Internet access that provides only 10Mbps upload speeds.

The difference between those two wildly different statements was the audience. AT&T’s message about fiber’s future-proof nature and its superiority over cable and DSL was delivered to investors while AT&T discussed the incremental fiber expansion in which it is hooking up more homes in metro areas where it already offers fiber. By contrast, AT&T’s message that Americans don’t need fiber access was delivered to the US government while the ISP lobbied against government-subsidized construction of fiber lines that are clearly superior to the DSL and fixed wireless home-Internet products that AT&T sells in areas where it decided that fiber is not cost-effective.

As we reported on March 29, AT&T is fighting proposals to subsidize nationwide fiber, writing that “there would be significant additional cost to deploy fiber to virtually every home and small business in the country, when at present there is no compelling evidence that those expenditures are justified over the service quality of a 50/10 or 100/20Mbps product.” That refers to 50Mbps download speeds with 10Mbps upload speeds or 100Mbps downloads with 20Mbps uploads.

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