Stephenson's Rocket: AT&T boss sleeping soundly
In a recent onstage interview Stephenson said he wasn't kept awake at night over the continuing inroads being made by OTT video across the fixed network. On the contrary: "Our money is made off the broadband product," he is quoted as saying by Fierce Telecom's Sue Marek. "The consumer who acquires video off our broadband is not a bad model for us."
Stephenson is reported as being surprisingly candid during the interview. That's a slight understatement because, until now, the mood music from AT&T along with many of the other big telcos around the world (yes, we're looking especially at you France Telecom) was that OTT video was going to break the open Internet model unless some way of "sharing the costs" of the bandwidth explosion in the access network could be found so that Google wasn't getting "a free ride".
In fact back in the day (2005) one of Stephenson's predecessors at AT&T was the original "they ain't gonna to use my pipes for free" guy. A statement which more or less triggered the furore that lead to the FCC's Internet neutrality rules five years later.
The fact is that the 'model's going to break' line has simply become more difficult to hold - the financial facts just keep getting in the way. Far from being traduced by the evil OTT players, broadband operators are coining the greatest share of revenue from their users.
For instance, Fierce points out that AT&T has recently announced that its U-Verse broadband service is now generating $10 billion for 2012, an increase of 38 per cent over 2011, and that it now represents 61 per cent of its fixed line consumer revenues and growing strong.
Wittingly or not, Stephenson has just yielded the argument.