AT&T's Digital Divide in California

Policy Implications

Policy Implications

This report provides a troubling view of AT&T’s wireline broadband deployment in California. It shows that AT&T’s initial fiber-to-the-home deployment reaches predominately higher-income communities, leaving lowand moderate-income Californians behind. It also shows that AT&T has left rural, and even many urban and suburban, Californians stuck in the slow lane.

In 2006, in response to a request from AT&T, the legislature established rules for statewide video franchising with passage of the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA, AB2897). The statute required AT&T to upgrade its network for video capability to at least 50 percent of California households, at least 30 percent of whom must be lowincome.10 As a result, AT&T was required to build its U-verse network to households at all income levels. However, as this report demonstrates, AT&T focused its Uverse investment in more densely-populated urban and suburban areas, leaving rural areas behind.

But today, as AT&T embarks on a new wave of wired infrastructure investment in California, the legislature has taken away substantial public oversight over its fiber deployment. In 2012, the legislature, with AT&T support, passed the “IP Deregulation Bill” (SB 1161) which prohibits regulatory authority over Voice-over-InternetProtocol (VoIP) and all IP-enabled broadband services. The bill sunsets in 2020. Until that date,or unless the statute is repealed,the legislature has effectively taken away CPUC authority to adopt policies to close the high-speed digital divide and to promote equitable fiber deployment in California. 

This report demonstrates that deregulation is not working to drive AT&T investment to ensure that all California communities have access to the essential infrastructure of the 21st century – high-speed broadband. It is critical that policymakers take proactive steps to get AT&T to accelerate its wireline network investment and fiber deployment to bring high-speed broadband to all California communities.

  • 10. A.B. 2987, Ch. 700, Stats. 2006.; Cal. Pub. Util. Code, §5800 – 5970 - Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006 (DIVCA).