David Isenberg at his exemplary Isenblog points out that AT&T is not really living up to the agreements it made to get the BellSouth merger approved. He uses a LPF post as a point of departure, noting that while it is possible to find the $10.00 DSL offer I referred readers to it is not easy to locate and, even more significantly, you cannot get to the offer from even the difficult-to-locate page I found. I had not realized that but, upon digging further, found it to be absolutely true. Mea Culpa! Following the link on the BellSouth page leads you to the general AT&T DSL page and after giving them your local phone number as part of the “order” process for the cheapest visible alternative they still don’t give the customer (you and me) any sense that there might be a legally mandated, still cheaper offer available. To go any further you have to complete the order and await contact by email….since I’ve no intention to order DSL service I stopped there. But the fact is clear: You cannot get to the $10.00 offer unless you already know it is there and are willing to interrupt the normal ordering process to demand it.
Isenberg correctly notes that this is not “offering” the service in the sense that the FCC required. Posting the offer on your website in such a way that only Google can find it and then adding insult to injury by funneling a person who has laboriously located the “good deal” for “Fast DSL Lite” to a page where a $10.00 offer isn’t visible but a “New Lower Price Fast DSL Lite” at $19.95 is, cannot be called anything but deceptive.
Isenberg goes on to note that this isn’t the only evasion of its merger “deal” with the feds that AT&T seems to be ignoring:
It agreed to offer “naked DSL” within six months of the merger agreement — that would be June 30, 2007, and there’s no naked DSL offer from AT&T I can find today, July 6, 2007, either. The FAQ still says, “To enjoy FastAccess DSL [FastAccess is what AT&T calls all its DSL services], you’ll need to have local phone service with BellSouth.”
AT&T also pledged to make wireline DSL available to 85% of the households in its territory by the end of 2007. Will it, or is this yet another Kushnick?* (A Kushnick is what a Bell does when it gets a Quid for a future Pro Quo, which it doesn’t ever deliver.)
AT&T has already announced that it will be developing technology to violate its pledge of Network Neutrality;
I’ve long since gotten to the cynical spot where I automatically assume that any obligation that BS/AT&T or Cox make that can be evaded will be evaded. They simply don’t act in good faith. I’m so inured to such behavior that I barely notice it and simply assume that if you want a fair shake you’ll have to fight for it. But Isenberg is right. You shouldn’t have to.
Well, the Advertiser this morning has a picture of the principals of this site splashed across the B section. That’s not our fault. We were just innocently plotting the creation of a Lafayette Commons, the downfall of Western Civilization as We Know It and minding our own business when an earnest young reporter asked us if we liked the wifi there. We told him we liked the coffee and the conversation evolved from there…
The story is about wifi hotspots, not usually major topic here, but it is interesting and revealed a few places I didn’t know had wifi.
Otherwise the only remarkable note in the piece is a quote from Huval:
“As we deploy the fiber system, we may incorporate a wireless component as part of that (for consumers)…”
That “may” is strange. Huval has twice publicly said that there would be wireless network for residents (@ Fiber Forum, @ Martin Luther King) and isn’t hesitant to say so in person so I don’t know why he’d pull his punches with the Advertiser. Durel too has repeatedly revealed his plans for WiFi–an old post about the value of wifi in a fiber-based ecology has a discussion on that. I’d hoped that we were through with coy, cautious language now that the bonds are sold…but old habits apparently die hard.
The Daily Advertiser – www.theadvertiser.com – Lafayette, LA
JoVoGo, formerly Verge Wireless, is shutting down the wireless network in downtown Baton Rouge. Again. The Verge network was purchased by US Wireless two years ago collapsed in less than a year as a month-long outage destroyed whatever customer loyalty the network had and was subsequently bought out by JoVoGo a year ago. JoVoGo returned Carlo McDonald, the head of the original network, to the helm but with a pair of well-connected locals to grease the path as we reported last year. The original PR release proudly touted the ownership of the influentials:
Don Powers served as the Executive Vice President of the Chamber of Greater Baton Rouge where he was employed for 18 years. Most recently he was associated with Congressman Richard Baker of Louisiana where he served as Public Information Officer following Hurricane Katrina. He also assisted Spire Capital Group, LLC out of New York in analyzing the Louisiana capital area for potential Venture Capital investment. Prior to serving at the chamber, Mr. Powers was with HNTB Corporation, a national architectural engineering firm. Jim Brewer recently retired as Assistant Chief Administrative Officer from the East Baton Rouge Parish (EBRP) Mayor-President’s office where he served for the past 27 years. As Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, Jim served as a senior advisor to the Mayor on all matters of public affairs, communications, and outreach to the general public and national community.
The current article in the Advocate says the system will be shutting down Sunday “for at least a few months.” and mentions the discouraging earlier history of failure and McDonald’s involvement. That becomes significant when McDonald talks about his (new) company acquiring a network “last year” whose equipment was “nearly obsolete.” That should have been no surprise since it seems very likely that was equipment McDonald originally installed. Shutting down the network seems nearly an afterthought as McDonald described the decision to take it down immediately as a consequence of the fact that service had become so “spotty.” Why hadn’t the network been upgraded as the PR release a year ago anticipated? But even more puzzling McDonald is now talking as if the connections that the JoVoGo venture were founded on were never pursued:
MacDonald admitted that he never specifically asked for a financial investment from the city. But he claims to have discussed the potential of a partnership several times over the years with members of Holden’s staff and other city-parish agency officials who seemed interested.
That makes it sound as if the former head of the local chamber with federal connections and a long-time administrative officer for the city-parish not only didn’t produce but didn’t even try. In the words of the ad: Wassup?!
My guess is that the Baton Rouge wifi net is dead and won’t be coming back from this second burial.
It ought to be clearly noted that this is a simple business failure: the private groups that ran this network couldn’t get it running well enough to attract retail subscribers and failed to find other institutional and public supporters to help fund it. It failed even after two business collapses surely reduced the capital cost to pennies on the dollar compared to the original investment. If it does resurrect itself again it will be on the basis of public support, not private financing.
Community support—and even community ownership—is essential to the survival of community resources like a publicly-available telecommunications network. Pretending that it can be done on a purely private basis (even by the well-healed and well-connected) has proven a questionable model, and not only in Baton Rouge. It would be far more sensible at this point for Baton Rouge to buy up the existing, installed base a fire-sale prices, use it for (entirely legitimate) public safety purposes and gradually build out a competitive wireless network to invigorate its still struggling riverfront downtown area.
Except, of course, that AT&T and Cox wouldn’t like it — and that their 2004 “Local Government (un)Fair Competition Act” makes it nearly impossible to do anything so sensible without engaging in a major knockdown-dragout fight with deep-pocketed and influential opponents.
(Just don’t let them rope you into anything more than an 18 month contract if you live in Lafayette. 🙂 )
AT&T recently announced two possible price savers for those of us in its footprint. One is a $10.00 (cheap!) low speed DSL plan and the other is free wifi for those with expensive DSL plans.
The cheap DSL is being offered in fulfillment of obligations that the Feds laid on AT&T as a condition of the BellSouth/AT&T merger. The plan is being very quietly offered, this is not being advertised and is not easily found on the website. (But hey, I dug up the AT&T link for you.) The AP story notes:
The $10 offer is available to customers in the 22-state AT&T service region, which includes former BellSouth areas, who have never had AT&T or BellSouth broadband, spokesman Michael Coe confirmed Monday. Local phone service and a one-year contract are required. The modem is free.
If you have already cut your umbilicus to the phone company and so aren’t eligible don’t despair, your day is coming:
Another concession to the FCC is yet to come: a plan for DSL that doesn’t require local phone service. AT&T has another six months to introduce that option, which should cost at most $19.95 per month.
However, if you are having a little fantasy of using your new DSL to replace your landline phone you probably should reconsider: the service only offers “download speeds of up to 768 kilobits per second and upload speeds of up to 128 kbps,” probably not enough for reliable VOIP. That’s too painfully slow to get you to move off cable if you already have it. But if you are still on on dialup, haven’t tried DSL before, don’t have access to cable, and are close enough to a phone aggregation point to get DSL (admittedly a small group of people) then this might be a good deal for you.
At the other end of the financial scale—if you’ve got one of those nifty iPhones (like some lucky locals do) and are unhappy, as many are, with AT&T’s slow network then you’ll be interested in the potential for hooking up with AT&T’s WiFi network for free. It’s available in McDonalds and Starbucks and WiFi apparently makes the iphone user experience an ecstatic one. The possible dealbreaker here is that you have to pay up for one of the higher speed DSL packages (meaning such has to be available to you) and AT&T’s network, while extensive, is not nearly as widespread as others–nor, like T-mobile’s, is the VOIP WiFi integrated into the cellular plan.