AT&T “Intervenes” In City’s Public Broadband Project, But Says They Won’t Interfere

A small city in Kansas has a fiber network that currently serves local government and civic buildings. They also have a plan in mind to expand that network and offer inexpensive gigabit fiber connections to every resident and business. That’s great news for the locals, but not such great news for the incumbent ISP, AT&T, which has won the right to “intervene” in the process.

The city of Chanute (pop. 9000) plans to finance this expansion with a bond initiative, Ars Technica explains. Under Kansas law, they need permission from the state before they can move ahead with the bonds.

So far so good. But as part of the process, the local AT&T subsidiary petitioned for and was granted the right to “intervene” in the process.

A representative for AT&T told Ars that they don’t intend to interfere with the city’s plans, describing the intervention process as “a routine procedural matter.” The representative told Ars, “AT&T has not taken a position on this fiber network,” and descrived intervention as a way to stay informed of any developments that could “impact AT&T’s business operations.”

It sounds pretty benign, but AT&T’s move comes against a backdrop of their being anything but. AT&T has a long track record of very vocally opposing even the mere idea of municipal broadband projects. The company has worked hard and spent lots of money helping enact state laws that prohibit public broadband expansion.

They have also argued that not only should public fiber projects be banned any place that they (or anyone else) already serves, but that those projects should be banned anywhere they might choose to do business later on. And the company also thinks that 6 Mbps DSL is totally great and qualifies perfectly well as high-speed and sufficient to modern consumer needs.

The city is optimistic, though. “We are not expecting any issues,” Chanute’s utility director told Ars Technica. And hopefully, he’s right. Meanwhile, the staff of the relevant state commission have recommended that the commission approve the bonds process.

AT&T intervenes in city’s plan to offer fiber Internet to all residents [Ars Technica]

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