AT&T Takes Fisk & Qulin For A Ride!

Jan 19, 2009

When AT&T first came out with DSL in our area back in 2001, they were required by the Federal Government to offer wholesale agreements to Internet Service Providers (ISP) like We bought the copper-connection from the customer’s home back to our building where we would connect the customer to the Internet and support them when they had problems. We’ve offered DSL service through SBC and AT&T since day 1.

Several months ago, we heard that AT&T was expanding their DSL coverage into Fisk and Qulin. We have several hundred customers who are using dial-up in those areas because there was no other broadband option. In December, we started getting calls from customers about switching to DSL asking “can you do DSL here or do we have to switch to AT&T?”

We in turn continued to ask our AT&T agents and representatives why the tools we have to pre-qualify customers for DSL were not working in these areas. For months we received “I’m not sure why the system isn’t allowing you to sign up customers in Fisk” type of answers.

You might wonder why AT&T was ever forced to wholesale DSL in the first place. The government protected AT&T and the Bell’s for almost a hundred years by granting them a monopoly on copper to the home and subsidizing it with tax dollars. In other words, the PEOPLE of the United States owned the copper not Bell and AT&T. In 1996 the “Bells” were forced to open the network up to competitors by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This was the reason for our ability to wholesale.

But in 2006 and after billions of dollars spent lobbying, the FCC ruled that AT&T would not be required to wholesale on new deployments. However, through the channels AT&T continued to tell the ISPs…just because we don’t have wholesale to you doesn’t mean we won’t!

We continued to press AT&T because we had customers waiting to get online. Last week we received the following statement from AT&T:

AT&T will continue to make wholesale ADSL transport available to its ISP customers as required by commercial agreements and regulatory commitments. In some geographic areas, AT&T is deploying network technologies that differ from the network technologies associated with the transport product that ISPs purchase on a wholesale basis. While AT&T may use different network technologies to provide retail Internet access service to end users, wholesale Internet transport products are not available across all networks/technologies.

In other words, AT&T will not allow us to resell DSL in Fisk and Qulin.

Here’s a good question: What is the first thing that happens when there’s no competition?
Answer: The customer pays more.

Note the price of DSL service in Fisk – $35/month with a 1 year contract. DSL in Poplar Bluff is $22.95/month with a 1 year contract and $25/month without a contract.

Don’t get me wrong, they have every right to do this. My biggest frustration is that AT&T wouldn’t own up to the truth until months later when the “right” thing to do was to let us know prior to deploying the service.

If I lived in Fisk, I’d pay $35 in a heartbeat, but the fact that it costs $10 more and you must sign a contract is precisely because they are not being forced to wholesale. AT&T claims the increased cost is due to the extension of their network. But that’s hogwash…the increased cost is because they have no competition.

For our customers in Fisk and Qulin, we have appreciated your patronage over the years. Broadband Internet is a wonderful tool for your business or home and I certainly expect you to switch whenever it is available to you: Even I would choose AT&T DSL over dialup any day…and every day. :)

My company will work to make the process easy and simple. If you want to keep your email address, then we can provide that for a few dollars a month. Just keep us in mind, because over the next year our wireless network is growing…and we hope to drive down the cost of broadband in your neck of the woods with a little thing we like to call “Competition!”

  1. tim

    yes i live in fisk and can still not get dsl and att says they dont have it in fisk nor do they know when it will b there whats this all about?

  2. Kent Stewart


    While it seems to me that you could pursue legal action if AT&T denies you the capability to be middleman, what have you done to expand your network? I still live in the dead zone my options are dial-up or satellite.

  3. rodney

    I do not nor never have worked for AT&T. Before we bash them to bad look at their building here in town and Semo’s, which do you think pays the higher property taxes in this county. Look at your phone bill each month, which do you think sends the most taxes back to the area. Look at the company vehicles at AT&T, which provides high paying jobs with good benefits, I’ll bet AT&T payroll in Butler County is higher. Mr Becker does a lot of great things for youth programs and this community and I commend him for that, but lets not bash AT&T with out all the facts.

  4. Ruthie Haynes Carter

    Mr. Brian,

    I, too, prefer to buy local for all the reasons Mr. Holt enumerated above. I’ve been a customer of yours since the first couple months you came online and fully intend to stay so. Many of my friends have flirted with the cheaper sites such as localnet and peoplepc, but not me. I much prefer to have my money spent where I can call up Tech Support and know that help will be immediately forthcoming. But, Brian, I’m getting mighty exasperated with not being able to download news videos and files people sent me with lots of pretty pictures and stuff because it takes 30 minutes or more to download them. When oh when are we out in the hinterlands getting something better than dialup? Please say it will be soon!

  5. jaime

    Well, I do believe that the whole reason the telecommunications act came into affect was to allow small businesses like yours to start up. That meant for you to use att’s copper facilities so your business could setup your own switching equipment and eventually building out your own copper facilities. We see that never happened and never will happen. Why? when you can piggyback att facilities and have no employees other than salesman. No capital cost for your business. Does your business really provide lots of jobs for the community. NO! If there are problems in the cable facilties, then its the BIG AND BAD att s fault. I am sure that Fisk and Quilin would allow you to bring in facilities to provide high speed.

  6. Bo Holt

    I always appreciate your blog because you deliver the facts of the matter along with your opinion. In this case, you’re right on the mark and your honest advise to the residents of Fisk and Qulin is something they should consider seriously. But there’s another way to look at the choice our friends and neighbors in east Butler County now have, and other areas will have eventually. Who do you want to support with your choice? A corporate conglomerate who will exploit the exclusivity of their service with a much higher rate not too far down the road once the local competitor is gone? And I assure you there’s absolutely no doubt of that. Note the manner in which they dealt with, a long term business partner that was a part of deploying the service they offered up to this point and creating revenue for AT&T. Or wouldn’t you rather keep a good, solid locally based company employed with your choice? A company with a track record of pioneering the service in the first place, providing local jobs, contributing back to the area’s schools, public service organizations, businesses and churches not to mention the local tax base. A locally based business whose service is is based right here-someone who you can walk in and see(try that with AT&T) that has made a commitment to invest in an upgrade soon. Now once you think about it, AT&T’s deal may well end up costing you a lot more than it appears up front. It’s not such a sweetheart deal after all, is it? It’s a no brainer to me-I’m keeping my business local. It comes back in so many ways that it is your best business decision in the long term. And perhaps not so long either because those initial rate offers from AT&T will go up a lot sooner than later. And by the way, if you make the choice to actually talk to an AT&T sales rep, please ask how many local jobs they provide, how many local chartiable contributions have they made, support of local schools, churches, etc…you get the idea.
    Keep up the good work and we’ll do our best to keep more of our, and our friends and neighbors, business local!