AT&T Pauses Fiber Internet Investments Amid ‘Net Neutrality’ Concerns

American multinational telecommunications corporation AT&T on Wednesday, November 12, added to the pressure on US telecom regulators to work on new net neutrality rules saying it would halt all investments in new high-speed Internet connections until Web traffic rules are settled.

Pausing Investments

“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed,” the AT&T CEO said at an analyst conference.

“We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules would look like,” he added.

The statement from the AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson is the first business-related move by an Internet service provider following President Barack Obama’s unexpected call on the Federal Communications Commission to regulate ISPs more like public utilities.

AT&T’s statement came as they have been spending heavily on acquisitions. The move by the telecoms giant also comes days after it had cut its estimated capital spending for 2015.

Legal Challenges

Image Courtesy of Dknights411 at the English language Wikipedia

The telecoms and Internet industry, as well as Republican lawmakers, have publicly criticized Obama’s proposal, saying such stricter regulations on Web traffic would saddle the Internet with unnecessary regulations and stifle growth and investments in network upgrades.

In April, AT&T laid out plans of deploying a high-speed fiber network in 100 US cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago.

ISPs and telecom companies said they would oppose Obama’s call for utility-style regulations in the courts and in Congress. Verizon already released their statement, saying the president’s call will likely face strong legal challenges will face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court.”

More than three dozen congressional Republicans wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, saying Obama’s proposed rule changes were “beyond the scope of the FCC’s authority.”

 ‘Net Neutrality’

The FCC’s primary focus is to ensure all Americans get access to quality Internet. The White House explained Obama’s plan in detail in a blog posted on the White House website.

Obama said they “cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.”

“I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”

The president added that if properly implemented, the new FCC rules “shouldn’t create any new burden for Internet providers.”

At the same conference on Wednesday, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said the FCC will heed their own judgment as an independent agency, adding the agency could restrict “paid prioritization” deals.

“I think the independent agency of the FCC will make the right decision,” Shammo said.