AT&T has frozen its plans to build a gigabit broadband network in the US – at least until the FCC scraps, er, straightens out net neutrality.
The telco's CEO and chairman Randall Stephenson said his company will hold off installing super-high-speed internet connections to homes until the US watchdog decides how it's going to regulate ISPs in future, or not as the case may be.
Earlier this week, President Obama urged the FCC to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers, which would require them to treating all network traffic equally – and not, say, charge punters more for watching online video.
AT&T said in April it dreams of expanding its fiber internet service to as many as 100 cities across America.
With the latest remarks from Obama, however, the company now has cold feet: it doesn't want to commit to a market that could be radically altered in the coming years.
"We think its prudent to just pause, make sure we have line of sight and understand to what this process will look like," Stephenson told investors at a Wells Fargo conference.
"We are in a pause mode right now for those kind of investments."
AT&T has, not surprisingly, been a critic of the FCC's plans for net neutrality regulations and the possible use of the Title II provisions. The telco has drawn scrutiny from regulators for allowing, say, websites to cover subscribers' mobile data charges, and has got into public spats with video sites over the debate on who should pay for network improvements.
Stephenson said his company hopes FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will work out a deal with carriers to provide consumer protections without invoking the archaic Title II provisions.
"It has been an interesting couple of weeks," the AT&T boss said.
"Chairman Wheeler had been on a fairly assertive push to work with almost everybody in the ecosystem, and he was doing a very diligent effort to see if there was a way to thread the needle." ®