AT&T puts fiber optic investment on hold over Net neutrality

A phone company such as AT&T has to run high-capacity fiber optic cables all the way to its customers' homes to reach gigabit speeds, but that requires a huge investment with an uncertain return.
(Toby Jorrin / Getty Images)

AT&T will halt investments in its network of high-speed fiber optic Internet connections until federal regulators decide how to regulate Internet service providers.

“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 company’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, told investors Wednesday.

“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 said, according to Reuters.


AT&T backs laws that would allow the company to charge higher fees for faster connections. The Dallas-based company is not alone--Verizon recently called Obama’s proposal “a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation.”

AT&T’s announcement comes two days after President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission to set “the strongest possible rules” to force Internet service providers to treat all Internet data the same. The FCC should reclassify Internet service to be regulated like a utility, Obama said.

“An open Internet is essential to the American economy and, increasingly, to our very way of life,” Obama said on Monday.

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