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FCC Asks AT&T for Info About Delayed Fiber Build-Out Because of Net Neutrality

The FCC has a few questions for AT&T about its threat to delay broadband investment because of net neutrality.

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Two days after AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said his company would delay building out its fiber network because of uncertainty about net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission has some questions.

Stephenson said the company would build fiber to homes as promised as part of its deal to acquire DirecTV but other investments would be delayed. The agency emailed AT&T Friday asking for more information about that announcement, including “all documents” related to that decision.

The request may not be great news for AT&T, which still needs the FCC to sign off on its $48 billion deal to acquire DirecTV. Stephenson’s threat to stop the company’s fiber build-out may help bolster the case of Internet providers that net neutrality rules advocated by President Obama would hurt investment in networks. But it doesn’t help the case with regulators that allowing AT&T to buy DirecTV will expand high-speed broadband access to millions of Americans who currently can’t get it.

FCC officials also want to know if AT&T’s financial model “demonstrates that fiber deployment is now unprofitable” and whether laying fiber to more than two million homes after the DirecTV acquisition “would be unprofitable.” AT&T has a week to respond.

A spokesman for AT&T wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Update: In a statement, an AT&T spokesman said the company is “happy to respond to the questions posed by the FCC in its review of our merger with DirecTV. As we made clear earlier this week, we remain committed to our DirecTV merger-related build-out plans.”

Review of the AT&T deal is currently on hold at the FCC as a separate issue involving programming contracts remains to be resolved.

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