AT&T has told the Federal Communications Commission that in order to meet Congress' goal of extending broadband access to 100 percent of Americans, it needs to ditch its land-line business in favor of focusing on broadband and IP-based communications.
"That transition is under way already," AT&T wrote in a Dec. 21 communication to the FCC. "With each passing day, more and more communications services migrate to broadband and IP-based services, leaving the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and plain-old telephone service (POTS) as relics of a bygone era."
AT&T called the 100 percent broadband goal "auspicious," and said it would be within reach if the resources of the FCC and its stakeholders were put toward developing and executing a strategy that included an "orderly transition away from, and retirement of, the PSTN."
Should AT&T have to continue maintaining and investing in two networks, it wrote, Congress' goal "will not be met in a timely or efficient manner."
AT&T-the country's original carrier, and still its most lucrative-seemed a bit desperate to heave the land-line business off its shoulders. While 90 percent of Americans already have broadband access, AT&T underlined the importance of reaching that last 8 to 10 percent of U.S. citizens still without it, writing, "Broadband is dramatically changing the way Americans live, work, obtain health care and interact with the government. Congress and the Commission have rightly made universal broadband access a core national priority."
Extending broadband access to the last 10 percent of Americans, AT&T estimated, will require an investment of approximately $350 billion.
Pressed by bandwidth-gobbling iPhones, AT&T has been investing heavily in its 3G network-Verizon recently estimated that AT&T has spent tens of millions on it, compared with the billions Verizon said it spent on its own-and on Dec. 8, AT&T introduced a free application, AT&T Mark the Spot, to enable customers to let it know where they experienced service issues, so that it can know where to invest 3G-allocated dollars.
AT&T's land-line business, conversely, has been shedding customers, particularly as Americans-financially pinched by a global recession-have increasingly decided to make due with solely their mobile phones.
"Due to technological advances, changes in consumer preference and market forces, the question is when, not if, POTS service and the PSTN over which it is provided will become obsolete," AT&T wrote to the FCC.
It went on to say less than 20 percent of Americans rely exclusively on POTS for voice service, 25 percent of households have abandoned POTS and 700,000 lines are being turned off each month.
Over the 32 pages of the communication, AT&T outlined steps for retiring the PSTN and concluded that it recommends that the FCC promptly follow them.