AT&T’s proposition seems reasonable. We need to start moving away from our century0old copper lines to wireless and fiber. Wireless is fantastic in rural areas with low population density and fiber is cheaper and more cost effective.
The problem is that AT&T’s version of the network of tomorrow for millions of users is going to mean significantly fewer choices and worse, more expensive service than ever before. While it’s true many people are moving away from copper phone service, unmentioned by AT&T’s video is the fact that millions of customers remain on copper-based DSL because it’s the only choice they have and the only one AT&T offered. While AT&T has selectively upgraded some users to their faster but still not fiber to the home U-Verse VDSL platform (about half of their fixed-line network), tens of millions of AT&T and Verizon’s DSL customers aren’t going to be upgraded anytime soon. Instead, they’re going to be hung up on or sold to smaller telcos with even less interest in upgrading them than AT&T did.
The use of “all IP” is also quite a lovely bit of conflation and misdirection, given the company’s U-Verse and DSL users are already IP-based.
The FCC recently started paying closer attention to this “IP transition” when Verizon’s version of it involved refusing to repair east coast DSL customers after Hurricane Sandy. Instead, after waiting months for repairs, customers were given something Verizon is calling Voice Link — a wireless service that locals complained was dramatically less functional and reliable than their previous copper DSL and phone lines, failing to offer basic features or data, leaving Comcast (which had no problem financing coaxial repairs) as the only regional fixed-line broadband competitor in many of these areas. Verizon was using the storm as cover to back out of areas they no longer want to service, though they fell under criticism by the New York AG for violating PSC rules.
This isn’t about how copper isn’t sufficient. It’s about companies like AT&T and Verizon who want to get rid of DSL customers. With the merging of Comcast and Time Warner, you’re going to start seeing these consolidated monopolies work even harder to take advantage of customers.