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SCOTUS To Hear Small ISPs' Case Against AT&T 80

Posted by kdawson
from the competition's-last-gasp dept.
snydeq writes "The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear an antitrust case that alleges AT&T squeezed out small ISPs by charging too much for wholesale access to its phone network. The case, originally brought to US District Court in 2003, had been appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. But AT&T requested the case be heard by the Supreme Court on the grounds that prior conflicting appeals court decisions in this area should be resolved at that level. As part of the case, the Supreme Court will likely also ascertain whether AT&T could be held to violate antitrust law without setting its retail prices below its own cost."
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SCOTUS To Hear Small ISPs' Case Against AT&T

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  • by Aaron_Pike (528044) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:10AM (#23914439) Homepage
    Place yer bets! I'll take 5-4 in favor of AT&T.

    ... what, no takers?

    • by Hellcom (1041714)
      Hey, it might go 5-4 in favor of the little guy.... nah!
    • What the spread?

    • You got it spot on:

      Ma Bell is no dummy. You don't get to be a powerful corporation by making dumb decisions; They asked SCOTUS to take the case because they know there is, based on the history of the court, a very good chance there will be a ruling in their favor:

      http://tinyurl.com/4pugrm [tinyurl.com]
      http://tinyurl.com/2klpc3 [tinyurl.com]
      http://tinyurl.com/2pafg6 [tinyurl.com]

      Remember, we're talking about a court which said it's OK to patent a genome, and that if a GM crop happens to blow into your farm, *you* are responsible for it, and have t

      • FYI, nobody wants to click "tinyurl" links. It's not actually helpful to anybody and potentially puts the future of the internet in tinyurl's hands. For the future, and for the sake of the anti-goatse community, don't use tinyurl. Thanks.
        • Proper links will become invalid when the site being linked to changes or disappears. TinyURL links become invalid when either the site being linked to changes or disappears, or TinyURL changes or disappears.

          I get the feeling that DNS is a better bet than TinyURL.

      • A lot of how they do this is because of the chowderheaded we way approach infrastructure in the first place. If we did was what some corporate campuses do and put in service tunnels [typepad.com]with the kinds of raceways every sysadmin on the planet knows how to access, they would lose a hell of a lot of the control they now exercise. This is about "last mile" b.s., it's about lack of transparency about technique, and it's about our relentless shift away from the envisioned network architecture of the internet to a back
        • by cdrguru (88047)

          If most of the people in the US lived in cities, that might make sense.

          Running a raceway down a city street makes sense when there are apartments and businesses on it. Running a raceway down a suburban street with 20-30 homes on it makes almost no sense at all. In large cities, like Chicago, there are already ducts and tunnels in downtown areas that date back to the 1800's.

          In older suburbs there are still alleys with telephone poles.

          • Um, most of the people in the U.S. *do* now live in cities. As for "almost no sense at all", well, first of all, I said that the best bet is to start with one or several streets in a given city, which leaves vast amounts of work to be done before "typical" suburban streets would be a factor, but even so, I have found that when I talk to people who make their living at this, telecommunications company engineers and project planners, government folks working in infrastructure, etc., they pretty reliably disag
  • by stainlesssteelpat (905359) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:14AM (#23914467)

    alleges AT&T squeezed out small ISPs

    Where I'm from that would be most unpleasant, not mention unsanitary!!

  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:24AM (#23914513) Homepage Journal
    Hail Ye SCOTUS
    Swift to save
    habeas corpus,
    ISP codpiece, and:
    Burma Shave
  • SCOUTS? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crimperman (225941)

    There's a theory [cam.ac.uk] that people can read words correctly just as long as the first and last letters are correct.

    On that basis.. anybody else read the headline as "Scouts To Hear Small ISPs' Case Against AT&T"?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      That would never work. These [wikipedia.org] guys would be easily bribed with lavish gifts, like cookies and milk. That would never happen with SCOTUS.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        That would never work. These [wikipedia.org] guys would be easily bribed with lavish gifts, like cookies and milk. That would never happen with SCOTUS.
        Yeah, they want at least a couple of kilos of cocaine, a case of 20-year-old single malt Scotch, and a blowjob. Trust me, I know.

        -- Bill Gates

    • by XavidX (1117783)

      There's a theory [cam.ac.uk] that people can read words correctly just as long as the first and last letters are correct.

      On that basis.. anybody else read the headline as "Scouts To Hear Small ISPs' Case Against AT&T"?

      yep, I did
    • SCROTUS (Score:4, Funny)

      by Ukab the Great (87152) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:51AM (#23915395)

      I misread it as a porn-related article.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by elrous0 (869638) *
      I hate it when people use acronyms for no good reason. SCOTUS would be understandable if you had to say "Supreme Court of the United States." But most people understand "Supreme Court" just fine. I think the context of the article would make it quite clear that this wasn't a reference to the Supreme Court of Paraguay. This is a similar thing with the acronym POTUS (instead of simply "The President" or "President Bush" or even just "George Bush").

      Acronyms are particularly annoying on /. because too many pe

      • by DittoBox (978894)

        What part of "News for Nerds" isn't making since. This is a nerd website. Without our precious acronyms we are nothing.

        Please kindly place your geek card in the shredder and walk away slowly.

      • Hey, guess what? Acronyms are easier to type, and as they enter into common usage, there is no ambiguity about what as meant (given context).

        Perhaps here on slashdot we should never use acronyms like AJAX? Would that make you happy?

        As for your argument that "the President" or "the Supreme Court" works well enough, perhaps you should consider that not only is a significant portion of the slashdot readerbase not American, but that some people might be offended by the hubris of assuming that President == P
  • by Kenz0r (900338) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:42AM (#23914603) Homepage
    IANA US Citizen, so I only have a limited understanding of how you handle things over there. But I think things like a telephone network should not be privately owned. Shouldn't the US government have invested in laying telephone and network infrastructure, and then lease it out to telco's? Then there could have nice fair competition, which would be good for the customer, right? What happened down here in Belgium, is that the government used to own the telephone network, but then partly privatized the phone national company, which now owns the entire network and sells access to smaller companies (similar to the situation described in TFS). Down the line, it's us customers who get overcharged and get really crappy DSL lines.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kenz0r (900338)
      IANA US Citizen, so I only have a limited understanding of how you handle things over there.
      But I think things like a telephone network should not be privately owned.

      Shouldn't the US government have invested in laying telephone and network infrastructure, and then lease it out to telco's?
      Then there could have nice fair competition, which would be good for the customer, right?

      What happened down here in Belgium, is that the government used to own the telephone network, but then partly privatized the phone
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:08AM (#23914733)

        In the US the phone lines are consistently referred to as "the public network" in FCC rules and regulations. I owned an ISP in Michigan and yes the telcos did squeeze out the small guys. SBC offered to sell me DSL lines at 37.99 per month when they were selling them at 39.99 per month. For that measly 2.00 per month per customer I was expected to provide tech support, billing and collection services and accept all of the bad debt risk. At that point I decided to get out of the ISP business and concentrate of other things. Pity that one large company can put 6,000 small ISPs out of business when their infrastructure was given to them by the people (think of the right of way behind you house that they use for nothing.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by NovaHorizon (1300173)
          And the reason they are allowed to do that? They can't be expected to just hand over their business to competitors.
          What I mean is the following situation is completely unrealistic; what will be claimed in court; and Why they can do this to you.

          Assume They have a cost of $30/month per DSL line.
          Assume you resell your line at $50/month.
          Assume your package of tech support quality, email addresses, special features, and customer care were all so grossly superior in 'likability' that all of SBC's customers f

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tgd (2822)

          Sorry, thats incorrect. Telcos almost universally lease that space from power companies, and they pay for it. There are some rare cases where the telco owns the poles or right of way, but they are very rare. Long haul runs are often, if not almost always, done using leased space from owners of train lines.

          If you, as an ISP owner, wanted to lease space on those poles and run lines, you could've. There's some big companies like, say, Comcast that did it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by anwaya (574190)

            Telcos almost universally lease that space from power companies [...] There are some rare cases where the telco owns the poles or right of way, but they are very rare. Long haul runs are often, if not almost always, done using leased space from owners of train lines.

            Not entirely correct.

            SPRINT = Southern Pacific Railroad Information NeTwork. Used rights of way along the railway network.
            MCI = Microwave Communications, Inc. Used Microwave for its backbone. Now part of Verizon.
            WilTel = Williams Telecommunications. Ran fiber through decomissioned gas (not gasoline) lines. They've done this twice that I know of: one network was sold to MCI, another to Level 3.

            These rights of way have been provisioned to carry enormous amounts of traffic.

            • by tgd (2822)

              No, its entirely correct.

              1) We're talking about DSL competition not long-haul, and virtually none of the country has local telcos using infrastructure that was given to them -- its leased from the power company, from the town in some cases, but it is *paid* for.
              2) If we're talking long-haul, in all of the examples you gave they ALSO are leasing from the parties that actually own the infrastructure.

              Telcos (unlike power companies) do NOT get a free ride. Its also worth pointing out, since we're on the subject

              • by sjames (1099)

                Hrmmm, here, the phone lines are buried in everyone's front yard while the power lines run overhead.

                Neither one pays me any rent.

                Where phone lines are run on power poles, they're paying for use of the poles the power company placed at their own expense on right of way they did NOT pay for.

                • by tgd (2822)

                  Your mistake is assuming that land is yours or ever was yours. Its not, you don't pay taxes on it.

                  In most jurisdictions there's a 10' zone along the street (although the size of it varies by town/city) that does *not* belong to the homeowner. They may think it does, they may landscape it and make it look nice, but that land is not theirs. They pay no taxes on it, they need town permission to cross it (thats why you need a permit to move a driveway), the city can dig it up when they need to, or cut trees on

                  • by sjames (1099)

                    Actually, that's sort of true. For all purposes other than the government granted easement (an exercise of imminent domain) I do own it. Who gets a fine if I let the grass grow 4 feet tall in that area?

                    In any event, that easement for the phone and power companies via exercise of imminent domain is a grant made to them by the local government (in theory, the public).

            • by afidel (530433)
              MCI used plenty of railroad right of ways, I guess you don't spend enough time outdoors or you would know that from first hand knowledge =)
            • by izm (592666)
              Here's how it works, at least for Verizon on the east coast... Depending on the arrangements between Verizon, your electric company, and your town, Verizon either owns the poles, leases space on the poles, or jointly owns the poles with the electric company. Verizon lays and maintains the cable for their copper and fiber networks. In the case of the copper network and their legacy (non-FiOS) fiber network, they are obligated by law to lease the pairs out to CoLocators, or more simply, mom and pop telco's a
          • by jjeffries (17675)

            Where I am, the power company owns the local poles and they are divided up into three parts--power, cable, and phone. Verizon rents _all_ the "phone" space on all the poles--somehow it's theirs by default--and if an ISP wants to put up their own fiber or copper, they have to go through Verizon to lease the space, which is, of course, loads of fun.

        • by xj (958167)
          I have DSL service, there is no other option at the moment. Verizon owns the phone lines, I can get phone/dsl service from another company and I do but they must lease the lines from Verizon. Getting service from another provider is slightly cheaper than getting it from Verizon directly. When there is a problem though nothing gets fixed quickly, they blame verizon, verizon blames them, each can only test their part of the chain. I could get service directly from verizon but I have seen how poor their cus
          • by dave562 (969951)
            I agree that their customer service isn't the best, but it isn't the worst either. I've had DSL service at first with GTE, and then with Verizon when they bought out GTE. Since about 1998 when I had a 384k DSL line, I've experienced less than a week of down time... and that's counting being offline for a couple of hours as an entire day. In terms of actual hours of no service, I'd say maybe 50-60 hours in ten years.
        • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @08:06AM (#23915525) Homepage

          Yup I can also attest to the Above. In the mid 90's I also owned a medium sized ISP in michigan. When 56K became popular and we had to move from 28.8 (we had working 33.6 lines, but then magically the line speeds dropped fast to 28.8 and they would not explain why.) to 56K the Telco I had to deal with gave me prices on the T1 lines that would support 56K dial up channels at a $3500.00 a month rate AND had a fee of per minute charges on incoming and outgoing. It would have forced me to up my rates to almost $30.00 a month from the $19.95 I was charging. Lots of other local ISP's DID up their rates which allowed me to run an extra year at 28.8 speed at $19.95 a month and then we ran the last year at $15.95 a month while I was negotiating selling my customer base and business to earthlink.

          The moment you told them you were an ISP or were looking for ISP dial up services, they started treating you like crap. My POP for my internet connection was down near the indiana border because the local Telco's prices were insane and I was lucky enough to have found a backbone ISP that had a decent rate, I paid $2500.00 a month for my T1 line and T1's worth of bandwidth..

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by mitgib (1156957)

          In the US the phone lines are consistently referred to as "the public network" in FCC rules and regulations. I owned an ISP in Michigan and yes the telcos did squeeze out the small guys. SBC offered to sell me DSL lines at 37.99 per month when they were selling them at 39.99 per month. For that measly 2.00 per month per customer I was expected to provide tech support, billing and collection services and accept all of the bad debt risk. At that point I decided to get out of the ISP business and concentrate of other things. Pity that one large company can put 6,000 small ISPs out of business when their infrastructure was given to them by the people (think of the right of way behind you house that they use for nothing.

          I too was a fairly large ISP in St Louis, and was squeezed out by SBC, but didn't go away without a small fight.

          I really wish you didn't post AC, but that is your choice, at least I can respond instead of use mod points now.

          Also in that fantastic $2/mo gross profit you got the privilege of paying $3,200/mo for a DS3 into the SBC ATM cloud, and then also had to provide transit to your customer. I never chose to provide DSL and sold the company at a fire sale after failing. But I learned alot over tha

      • by ricegf (1059658) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:43AM (#23914889) Journal

        In the USA, we tend to not trust our governments very much (that whole taxation without representation thing), so we're constantly vacillating between government and private ownership of public services. We often compromise on government-regulated monopolies for such infrastructure, which occasionally works reasonably well.

        In Texas, for example, the power wiring is owned by a government-regulated monopoly, but power generation is privately owned and competitively sold to consumers across the public (well, monopoly-owned) grid.

        As I understand it, the original wired communications infrastructure ("the Bell system") was installed by a government-regulated monopoly (AT&T), which was later broken up into regional companies ("Baby Bells") that owned the wiring and local phone service. Long-distance service between them was opened to competition, one competitor of which was the original AT&T (which was barred by regulation from owning wires).

        Then the telecom market was de-regulated (because we don't trust the government), resulting in the Texas "Baby Bell" (Southwestern Bell, or SBC) buying up several other regional Babies and then the long-distance company AT&T (whose name it took), then diversifying into Internet, satellite TV, and various other communications arenas and re-establishing at least part of the old monopoly.

        Does that simplify things? Well, it doesn't help me much either. *sigh*

        OK, yes, government ownership of the infrastructure makes sense, but only if you trust government. We don't much, and it shows. So there you are.

        • Thanks to Stephen Colbert for explaining the AT&T breakup and re-merger in this video. [youtube.com]
        • by fizzup (788545)

          An old joke. I heard it from /usr/games/fortune in slackware, but it's got to be older than that.

          There were in this country two very large monopolies.

          The larger of the two had the following record:

          • the Vietnam War
          • Watergate
          • double-digit inflation
          • fuel and energy shortages
          • bankrupt airlines, and
          • the 8-cent postcard.

          The second was responsible for such things as:

          • the transistor
          • the solar cell
          • lasers
          • synthetic crystals
          • high fidelity stereo recording
          • sound motion pictures
          • radio
        • by innerweb (721995)

          I think in this case, it has very little to nothing to do with trust of the government. It has much to do with very wealthy businesses and people pushing the government to give them resources that allow them to greatly increase the resources those privates have. This is more a case of abusive practices by powerful business interests using the government agencies as tools.

          InnerWeb

          • by ricegf (1059658)
            I could be speaking from my own perspective, of course. *I* don't trust the government. I don't trust big corporations, either, but I can usually choose to not deal with corporations if they don't treat me with respect. Unlike the government, corporations don't have guns.
            • by innerweb (721995)

              No disagreement there. Though I may be wrong, I do seriously doubt you were one of the major investors who pushed so hard to de-regulate the telco industry after the break-up (just playing the odds). I seriously doubt you were one of the people who had major ownership in the companies that stood to benefit most from that de-regulation. I agree that trusting the government is not a good thing. Unfortunately, trusting a business is no better, and you do not always have the choice you think you have. In

              • by ricegf (1059658)

                Well, I'm not sure if telco stocks were part of my mutual fund portfolio or not (like most people, I have retirement investments and such), but I certainly was not "a player" in that regard. And my ability to vote my stocks gives me no more say in those corporations than I have in the government - which is to say non-zero, but precious little.

                I do support managed deregulation, for example the power deregulation in Texas, as long as actual competition exists and its not just two or three big corporations

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      But I think things like a telephone network should not be privately owned. Shouldn't the US government have invested in laying telephone and network infrastructure, and then lease it out to telco's?

      It brings a tear to my eye to think of what could have been.

      No, my friend, that's how it should have gone, but lobbyists, corporate campaign donations and insidious effort to convince people that siphoning wealth from the bottom half of society into the top 1 percent is actually a good thing called the "free mar

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      AT&T laid out the telephone network in the United States for the most part, not the federal government. It's been that way for over a hundred years. Why should some fly-by-night ISP get sub-retail prices on AT&T's network that they poured their heart into building? It's not like taxpayers had anything to do with it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MobyDisk (75490)

      The complexity is that it isn't as simple as government -vs- private. There are several reasonable ways to do it. The government could own the lines, and contract a private company to maintain them. Or the private company could lease the rights to them from the government. Or the company could merely provide service over the lines while not owning them.

      Where it becomes a problem in the US is that it is not done any of these reasonable ways. :( The phone company owns the lines, yet the money is governme

      • Your rosy picture of other utilities isn't exactly on target, there are plenty of for-profit power companies that operate all aspects of electrical distribution from generation to home delivery, same with water, from treatment to the pipes under your street.

        I grew up with phone, electric and water co-op's in a rural area, it wasn't a bad model but they were heavily subsidized by the government early on. Now I have electric and gas by a end-to end for-profit distributor, water and sewer are private but th
    • by Sockatume (732728)
      Here in the UK we had a very similar situation, BT owns the copper phone network so for people outside of cabled areas (which are owned by the borderline monopolistic Virgin Media now, but that's another story) they had a choice between BT ADSL, or other companies' ADSL which used BT's equipment in BT's exchanges over BT's network.

      Now something called "local loop unbundling" is providing some power for other telecom firms to install equipment at exchanges, for the last mile IIRC. It's still BT's network a
  • "Cost" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mother_reincarnated (1099781) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @05:45AM (#23914613)

    the Supreme Court will likely also ascertain whether AT&T could be held to violate antitrust law without setting its retail prices below its own cost.

    That might be because they [were/are] a [monopoly/oligopoly] whose network was largely built at public expense and 'their cost' is a calculated 'average cost' when the rest of the world gets measured by marginal costs...

    Remember that the world of RBOCs has a sky of a completely different color.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pegdhcp (1158827)
      Please keep in mind that IANAL, my reading of the positions is as:

      As smaller ISPs are also customers of AT&T themselves, they should be eligible (under normal market conditions, for regular goods and services) for price negotiation to lower theÅYr costs, as they are buying said services in bulk. However as AT&T is a monopoly, it is using that superior market position for squeezing direct customers, by narrowing their profit margins. Which, besides collapsing your customers being a bad busines

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        As far as I know there is no requirement for fairness in real market environment so that law maker do not care about your regular fairness concept, but "unfair business practices" usually is a placeholder for "Mafia like extortion techniques"...
        No, there's no requirement for fairness, but using a monopoly position to control a market through pricing is a pretty clear violation of antitrust laws.
      • Want to remove the monopoly? Simple. Remove the government restriction on the creation of competing lines. The government thinks there shouldn't be multiple lines "doing the same thing". That's a nice opinion, but when backed by force, it results in monopoly control.
        • This happened originally with the telephone lines, competing companies all ran lines along the same path which created a mishmash of lines crisscrossing all over the place. the consequence of this was unsightly and dangerous.

          I don't want to see 30+ telephone lines when I look outside my window, so I guess I take the opposite approach as you, instead of half-assing it, create a quasi-governmental non-profit agency that owns and leases the lines to whoever wants a piece?
      • by sjames (1099)

        Further, they are buying less that a residential or business DSL customer is.

        When they buy bulk from the ILEC, they're buying just the raw data line to the customer. Radius server (for authentication), the needed pppoe server/router (usually), email, personal web, upstream bandwidth etc are all things they bring themselves. Not to mention tech support, office overhead, billing, accounting, etc.

        AT&T provides those things for their direct customers. By offering the raw connectivity at only $2 less tha

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:28AM (#23914823) Homepage

    I know they never had boat loads of cash, but during their heyday, the big independent ISPs should have invested a lot of money into buying their own lines. Hindsight is 20/20, but if they had spent their money wisely, they could have bought up a lot of cheap dark fiber the way that Google did a little while back. Then, they'd have had a lot of their own infrastructure to play with.

    • by adri (173121) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @07:00AM (#23914987) Homepage Journal

      Google has purchased dark fibre because:

      * it was available; because
      * a lot of it was put into the ground and bought by other companies; which
      * went busted.

      Also, laying dark fibre capacity inter and intracity is way, way different to last-mile access. You have to realise that the US market is full of government-granted monopolies which make laying last-mile access not just prohibitively expensive but a political issue. Damn!

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      When I did the ISP thing in the 90's a Single-mode fiber tranciever that was 10Base capable was over $6500.00 I could buy 2 HP routers that were T3 capable with the outbound CSU/DSU's for that price. It was stupid expensive back then to do anything fiber.

  • Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oDDmON oUT (231200) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:31AM (#23914837)

    Telecom Immunity

    Granted it's not passed the Senate yet, but you can bet your sweet patootie it will, and should SCOTUS miraculously find in favor of the ISPs some slick lawyer will find a way to make it apply here.

    After all, those small ISPs were probably run by terrorists, or sympathetic to them, or .... something.

  • There were a few years where I had DSL from Flashcom (now defunct). Every time AT&T did any kind of servicing for any of the telephones on the street, they would unplug our DSL connection and blame it on Flashcom. After they did it a few times too many, we would watch for their trucks, and complain before they left to force them to put it back. The only way to get them to stop was to get a line that was shared between DSL and POTS voice. Apparently, they check phone lines for a dial tone before they unplug them, and since Flashcom's DSL lines weren't also phone lines, they didn't have dial tones.

    Incompetence, malice, or malice cleverly disguised as incompetence? In any case, it's wrong to give a misbehaving private company exclusive access to vital public infrastructure.

  • by nesta (11896) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:56AM (#23919849)

    The ISP I worked for just recently folded up due to AT&T's DSL pricing structure. The writing had been on the wall for years, but we hung on as long as we could.

    Back in '99 Ameritech was our ILEC, and as they were preparing to roll out their DSL network they actually said that they wouldn't be competing in the DSL market themselves, but would instead do the wholesale side and have other ISPs do the internet services side. That was probably BS, but it didn't matter anyway because they were shortly bought by SBC.

    SBC dragged their feet for years, with a very limited initial roll-out in our area. As of now there are still a number of remote terminals in our LATA that haven't been equipped with RDSLAMS, and it seems never will. SBC used their deployment schedule as a bargaining chip against the states that were doing things they didn't like, such as allowing communities to deploy their own telecom infrastructure.

    Now AT&T is rolling out their new U-Verse [wikipedia.org] fiber to the neighborhood service. Competing ISPs have no way to get this much faster service wholesale, and AT&T is actively pushing people to convert from their DSL to U-Verse. Our speculation is that no further DSL DSLAMS or RDSLAMS will be rolled out, and that their DSL network and support will continue to degrade. Their answer to any customer that complains will be to switch to U-Verse.

    At the same time as the U-Verse roll-out they announced they will be raising the base circuit cost to ISPs by 50%. That was the nail in the coffin for us. The rate we paid for just the individual circuit was already about what the end-user could get the full service at the same speed directly from AT&T. That was before paying for the back-haul circuits to AT&T, our backbone charges, staff, equipment, and other facilities. As a result we had to price our DSL much higher than AT&T, and although our service and support was much better than AT&T's it was extremely difficult for customers to see beyond the bottom line (though many regretted it after it was too late).

    SBC / AT&T has been lobbying hard to get out of the Telecomunications Act of 1996 [wikipedia.org], especially the provision that they had to provide access to their DSL service. The first blow was back around 2001 IIRC when they managed to remove DSL as a tariffed product, so they could charge competing ISPs different rates than they charged their own ISP. The next blow was when they got the FCC to classify DSL (and future internet service offerings like U-Verse) as a data service in FCC Order 05-150 [techlawjournal.com], which completely removed the requirement for AT&T to provide ISPs wholesale DSL products. If it was politically feasible I'm sure AT&T would turn off every competing ISPs DSL right now, and it would be (mostly) legal to do so. Instead, though, it seems they are going to slowly phase out DSL by offering a faster service that they never had to allow ISPs to use, and to make the transition faster keep bumping up the wholesale rates until all the DSL providers are forced out of business.

    I wish LinkLine Communications all the luck in this case. It's clear to anyone who has dealt with SBC / AT&T wholesale DSL that AT&T is doing what they can to push out the competing ISPs who use their network. I can't say I'm optimistic that they will win, or even if they do that it will do any good. The FCC and the state governments were bought and paid for a long time ago.

  • I remember that when DSL was first rolling out, there were a number of factors that affected the speed that your line could be provisioned for. Not all these problems occurred on purpose but still had to be dealt with by AT&T when they allowed third party DSL providers to operate. Bridge taps, disturbers, packaging options as well as unfortunate distances from the CO all contributed to the difficulty in making a DSL line work. There was also a cute little module at the demarc that allowed them to remote

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