AT&T is trying to acquire DirecTV, a deal worth some $67 billion that would create a soul-sucking leviathan telecoms company. The deed is all but done, and just awaiting FCC approval — something AT&T is hoping to help along by (temporarily) offering (shitty) internet to low-income families.
In a regulatory filing submitted to the FCC last week, AT&T lays out the details of a plan to provide cheap internet to houses that qualify for food stamps under SNAP, and don’t already have AT&T service. That would see millions of households eligible for slow, or slightly less-slow internet for $5 or $10 a month. AT&T is hoping that this will incentivize the FCC to approve gobbling up DirecTV.
Sounds generous, right? Not so fast: AT&T is promising speeds of ‘up to’ 5 Mbps in areas where it has high-speed broadband, and 1.5 Mbps in areas with slower service. (There will be no cheap broadband for anyone outside of AT&T’s existing coverage.)
That ‘up to’ is crucial: the service AT&T is offering is DSL, the type of internet that is transmitted over phone lines, and is liable to be much slower if you live far away from the exchange, or you’re trying to use the internet at peak times. So, your already-slow internet will probably be even slower — not to mention, AT&T’s filing makes no mention of usage caps.
There’s also details in the pricing: the slow speeds are $5 and $10 respectively, but that goes up to $10 and $20 after the first year of sucking on AT&T’s internet pipes. And, most importantly, the entire program will finish after four years.
That might sound like a long time, but you have to remember what’s at stake here: a merger that will see AT&T acquire 13 million users, and continue to turn the telecoms industry into an uncompetitive oligopoly dominated by a very few powerful players. Is that worth a crappy deal for bad internet that will expire in a few years?
I sure hope not.