US round-up: AT&T clarifies fibre position; Malone tips Charter to move for TWC if Comcast bid falls apart; Staten Island wants Google Fiber

27 Nov 2014

AT&T Inc has responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) investigation into the telco’s recent claim that it may halt its fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) investment in light of regulatory uncertainty. In a letter to the watchdog, the telco explained: ‘The premise of the Commission’s 14 November letter is incorrect. AT&T is not limiting our FTTP deployment to two million homes. To the contrary, AT&T still plans to complete the major initiative we announced in April to expand our ultra-fast GigaPower fibre network in 25 major metropolitan areas nationwide, including 21 new major metropolitan areas. In addition, as AT&T has described, the synergies created by our DirecTV transaction will allow us to extend our GigaPower service to at least two million additional customer locations, beyond those announced in April, within four years after close. At the same time, President Obama’s proposal in early November to regulate the entire internet under rules from the 1930s injects significant uncertainty into the economics underlying our investment decisions. While we have reiterated that we will stand by the commitments described above, this uncertainty makes it prudent to pause consideration of any further investments – beyond those discussed above – to bring advanced broadband networks to even more customer locations, including additional upgrades of existing DSL and IPDSL lines, that might be feasible in the future under a more stable and predictable regulatory regime. To be clear, AT&T has not stated that the President’s proposal would render all of these locations unprofitable. Rather, AT&T simply cannot evaluate additional investment beyond its existing commitments until the regulatory treatment of broadband service is clarified.’

John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media Corp, has hinted that Charter Communications, the US cable operator that he backs, will try to acquire Time Warner Cable (TWC) outright if Comcast’s pending merger deal with TWC falls through. The development was revealed by the Wall Street Journal, citing comments made by Malone himself regarding ‘an outright purchase’ of TWC at a recent conference. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in February this year Comcast agreed to buy TWC for USD45.2 billion in an all-stock transaction; the deal followed the dismissal of a ‘grossly inadequate’ USD37.3 billion offer from Charter, one month previously.

A push is underway to bring a Google Fiber pilot project to Staten Island, New York, online new journal Staten Island Live reports, after elected officials from the borough met with the search engine giant-turned-1Gbps fibre provider last week. Councilman Vincent Ignizio and Representative Michael Grimm met with Susan Molinari, Google’s vice president for public policy and government affairs – and the borough’s former congresswoman – to discuss the issue. After the meeting, Ignizio told the news site: ‘With such a large city like New York, it would be an enormous undertaking to wire up the entire city. Injecting more competition in the marketplace through higher bandwidth will allow Staten Island to be a showpiece for other major cities and, ultimately, for expansion throughout all of New York City … [Molinari] very much loves Staten Island still, I can tell you that. She was very interested in having further discussions. There was some concern about the regulatory hurdles that New York City presents.’