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AT&T Discontinues DSL Service, Gets Lambasted by CWA, Others

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Internet, Ethernet, DSL

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and other advocacy groups are slamming AT&T for discontinuing sales of its DSL service. But AT&T tells us ongoing DSL customers will still get their existing service and the company isn’t disconnecting them.

The CWA, Public Knowledge, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), Next Century Cities and others submitted a filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It says the FCC’s “deregulatory agenda” means it can’t protect Americans from losing broadband connections during the pandemic.

Effective this month, AT&T will no longer accept new DSL orders. Moreover, existing customers will no longer be able to make any changes in speed to their service.

Groups Say AT&T Disconnecting Customers

The groups claim AT&T‘s plan includes disconnecting 160,000 DSL customers. And only some have access to another wireline service from AT&T.

CWA's Brian Thorn

CWA’s Brian Thorn

“It is unconscionable that AT&T would disconnect thousands of existing DSL customers, many of whom likely do not have another fixed broadband option, during a pandemic,”  said Brian Thorn, CWA senior researcher. “AT&T is making the digital divide worse, and failing its customers and workers by not investing in crucial buildout of fiber-optic infrastructure.”

The FCC’s lack of oversight means AT&T may leave thousands of customers without a viable internet option, he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated inequities in communities with few options for affordable and reliable broadband,” said Ryan Johnston, Next Century Cities’ policy counsel. “Now AT&T’s actions ensure that residents who don’t have access to, or can’t afford other options, will be left offline.”

Need for High-Speed Internet

An AT&T spokesperson noted how customers need access to high-speed internet for “bandwidth-rich activities” like work, school and entertainment. It continues to make “substantial investments” in wireless capabilities to reach more customers with faster speeds.

“That’s why as of Oct. 1, we’re not accepting new orders for DSL service 6 Mbps and slower,” the spokesperson said.

DSL customers can eventually upgrade to faster services.

The FCC has claimed there are no authority problems with public safety, the groups said. But AT&T’s announcement means that “millions of households will be left with fewer or no options for home internet.”

“Meanwhile, these communities are counting on the FCC to ensure reliable and uninterrupted access to broadband,” the filing reads.

A new CWA and NDIA report shows 13.9 million households last year had access to DSL as the fastest technology available from AT&T. Furthermore, while these households may have competitor services available, AT&T’s retirement of DSL in some areas will impact the overall market for broadband.

The company reported a total of 469,000 DSL subscribers as of June 30.


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