After President Obama called on the FCC to pass strong net neutrality rules, Chairman Tom Wheeler reportedly backed away from the statements, saying he favored a more "nuanced" solution. But regardless of where the debate stands, AT&T says it won't budge on a new project: at a conference today, CEO Randall Stephenson said AT&T would stop investing in a plan to bring high-speed fiber connections to 100 US cities until the FCC determines a path for internet regulation.
AT&T brought the service to Austin last year
"We can't go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed," Stephenson said, according to a report from Reuters. AT&T brought the service to Austin last year, beating Google, and said they were exploring more investments in major metro areas. But as of April, negotiations with the cities were still in early stages.
Stephenson also said the FCC would face litigation — possibly years' worth — if it decided to pass tough rules, such as Title II, which would treat the internet like a utility.
AT&T, of course, has long taken the stance that tough open internet rules would hurt competition, and other service providers have saber-rattled about potential lawsuits over new rules. But preemptively canning investments in a service, especially one as in-demand as fiber, is a new move. If AT&T follows through, there may not be new investments until some time next year, when rules are set to be decided on.