TUPELO • After issuing a subpoena directed against AT&T last week, Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley now says the telecommunications company will supply him with additional information about its use of federal funds intended for the expansion of rural broadband service.
“It would have been nice to get to this point without a subpoena, but AT&T is going to confidentially file responses to my questions,” Presley said on Thursday afternoon.
In a statement, the company confirmed its intent to provide the Public Service Commission with the requested information, provided certain conditions are met.
"Mississippi law and Public Service Commission regulations protect against the public disclosure of competitively-sensitive information, including the number of customers we serve," said AT&T Mississippi President Mayo Flynt. "We have informed the commission that we will provide the requested information subject to those safeguards."
Last week, Presley issued a subpoena to force AT&T to disclose information about its use of some $238 million in federal money from the federal Connect America Fund.
According to Presley, the company claims that this CAF money has been used to make service available to approximately 133,000 locations within the state.
But Presley, who represents the state’s northern district on the Public Service Commission, wants documentation to provide more information about those claims, including information showing the number of subscribers in the areas where AT&T claims it has provided service.
He also wanted to know how many complaints have been lodged by customers who are taking services in areas where coverage was expanded using federal money and information about individuals who may have been told they were eligible for service, only to find out from a service technician that no service was available.
The company refused to answer these questions voluntarily, which prompted the subpoena by the northern district utility regulator.
In a statement last week, AT&T spokesman Jim Kimberly said that “We are in compliance with the requirements of the Connect America Fund (CAF) as well as with all laws regarding federal USF programs.”
Kimberly said that “In Mississippi, we are confident that we will exceed the final CAF II goal of providing high-speed access to 133,000 rural Mississippi homes by the end of this year.”
Even following an apparent win over the issue, Presley remained pugnacious in his remarks on Thursday.
The Public Service commissioner said he is aware of addresses at which AT&T has claimed to federal authorities to have provided service, even though residents at certain of these addresses claim they can’t get service.
“Something is not right when their technician tells them no, you cannot get service, but AT&T tells the FCC, falsely, ‘We’ve provided service,’” Presley said.
AT&T did not provide a response to questions from the Daily Journal about these statements by Presley.