AT&T will provide records after a government subpoena
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Major telecommunications conglomerate AT&T has agreed to provide the state of Mississippi records detailing how it used the almost $284 million it was paid by the federal government to expand internet access in the state.
AT&T originally denied requests last week for records related to work it completed in the state to provide fixed wireless service access through the Connect America Fund, Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said. The company agreed to comply after it was served a subpoena from the Mississippi Public Service Commission on Sept. 11.
Presley said Thursday afternoon he was told by AT&T that he would be receiving the records by the end of the day.
“This victory goes to show that when you are willing to stand up to these Goliaths, they’ll back down,” Presley said.
President of AT&T in Mississippi Mayo Flynt said AT&T has informed the Mississippi Public Service Commission that the company will provide the information that has been requested as long as “competitively sensitive” information, including the number of customers AT&T serves in Mississippi, is not released publicly. The documents will be able to be viewed by the government, Presley said.
“We have to give them some confidentially on that because they are in a competitive market,” Presley said.
The Connect America Fund is a multiyear federal program designed to expand access to broadband in rural areas of the country that are currently underserved. The Federal Communications Commission provides funding to service providers to subsidize the cost of building new network infrastructure or performing network upgrades.
Presley said a company representative had initially denied his office’s request for records when asked how many people in Mississippi had benefited from infrastructure installed by AT&T under the Connect America Fund project.
Presley’s office requested the records after receiving some complaints from residents who said they haven’t been able to access service, Presley said.
AT&T has said it is on track to provide service to more than 133,000 Mississippi households by the end of the year. Data provided by AT&T and made public by the Universal Service Administrative Company shows well over 133,000 addresses where AT&T says service has been deployed.
In addition, AT&T spokesperson Jim Greer said last week that deployment data that AT&T provides to the federal government is subject to audit and record retention.
Along with the number of actual subscribers to AT&T’s fixed wireless service, the Public Service Commission requested the number of complaints filed with the company by customers who have taken service. It also sought information on the number of Mississippians who applied for fixed wireless service based on AT&T’s assertion that it was available and were later determined not to be in an area covered.
Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.