Mayors slam AT&T for slow Internet, long phone outages | Ars Technica
AT&T is failing to provide fast Internet service to many customers and is doing a poor job maintaining old copper phone networks, mayors and other elected officials from California and Nevada said yesterday. The officials are taking the side of workers in a union’s ongoing labor dispute with AT&T, saying that the carrier has cut jobs while letting customers suffer long network outages.
“All too many Californians and Nevadans have waited far too long for AT&T to build the high-speed broadband infrastructure promised to them,” the officials said in a letter to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. “Not only is AT&T failing to provide access to 21st-century high-speed connections to many communities, but it is also not maintaining the copper lines that are vital to landline phone access, 911 and emergency services and basic Internet service.”
The letter to AT&T was signed by dozens of elected officials from California and Nevada, including the mayors of Reno, Nevada; Santa Clara, Daly City, Chula Vista, Emeryville, Berkeley, and Arvin, California. It was also signed by Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin and Curren Price, California Sens. Jim Beall and Josh Newman, and California State Assembly member Tom Daly. Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola said in a press release that “AT&T has reneged on its responsibility to customers in more rural areas like Arvin.”
AT&T outage restoration times are sub par
Service quality data provided by AT&T to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) shows that AT&T has been failing to meet the state’s minimum quality standards for telephone service every month for years, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union said.
“AT&T missed the CPUC’s out-of-service report standard every month since 2014,” the CWA wrote in an analysis of the data. “The CPUC minimum standard for out-of-service reports is 90 percent within 24 hours—that is, 90 percent of AT&T CA’s reported outages must be restored within 24 hours to meet the standard. AT&T CA missed the standard every month in the last 36 months. In the fourth quarter of 2016 (the most recent data available), only 54 percent of outages were restored within 24 hours, far below the CPUC standard. In Dec. 2016, only 46 percent of reported outages were restored within 24 hours.”
The 2016 data is “adjusted” to exclude Sundays, federal holidays, and repair tickets where there are delays for things like cable thefts, third-party cable cuts, and lack of access to a home because a customer isn’t available. The data from previous years is unadjusted.
In the 36 months from 2014 to 2016, AT&T’s best performance came in October 2014, when it restored 80.6 percent of outages within 24 hours. Its worst was in December 2014, at 32.3 percent.
AT&T’s average restoration time was 46.9 hours in December 2016 and 36.5 hours in November 2016. (There were 29,633 outage report tickets in December and 26,866 in November.) The average restoration time was above 24 hours in 17 of the 36 months.
AT&T didn’t dispute the data, but it said weather has made the problem worse in recent months. “Ongoing extreme weather conditions in California and the heaviest rain in a decade created an unusually high level of network repair work over the last few months, which we addressed in part by bringing in additional technicians from other parts of the country and doing everything we could to safely address the added load,” AT&T told Ars.
AT&T also said it has “invested more than $7.25 billion in our California wireless and wired networks in the past three years.”
The data cited by CWA can be found on the state utility commission’s website. AT&T was not alone in falling short of quality standards, as other carriers such as Verizon also regularly met the 24-hour repair standard less than 90 percent of the time.
This has been a problem with multiple carriers for years. CPUC wrote in 2011 that “Carriers regularly fail[ed] to meet the service restoration time and trouble ticket answer time standards.” Starting this year, phone companies that fail to meet minimum standards three months in a row can be fined under new CPUC rules.
Elected officials, AT&T, fight over jobs
AT&T has 17,000 technicians and call center employees in California and Nevada, the elected officials’ letter said.
“Yet as AT&T made more than $14 billion in profits last year, paid out $46 million to its top executives and spent billions on costly mergers, the company is attempting to move good quality jobs out of California and Nevada… Over the past five years, AT&T has cut more than 2,500 jobs in California alone, affecting communities from San Diego to Sacramento,” the letter said.
AT&T told Ars that it “hired nearly 3,300 people last year alone in California, of which over 2,700 were union-represented employees, and [it is] looking to hire more union workers in California this year.” The company said it is attempting “to reach a fair contract” with the union.