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AT&T Halts Fiber Rollout in Response to Net Neutrality Debate

President Obama’s decision to come out in support of net neutrality this week sent shock waves through the industry, and one major carrier is responding with an unexpected new tactic. Reuters reports that AT&T is temporarily pausing the expansion of its GiGaPower fiber network until the FCC makes an official ruling on net neutrality.

“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed,” AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Wednesday at a Wells Fargo conference. “We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules would look like.”

Up until now, AT&T has been building out its fiber network as quickly as possible in an effort to compete with Google Fiber. The carrier actually beat Google to launch first in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and announced plans to cover up to 100 cities and municipalities across the country back in April. Now those plans are on hold.

If companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast get the “fast lane” system they want, a fiber-based network could be the perfect vehicle for premium Internet services. But if the FCC rules to protect the open Internet, AT&T may not have a reason to invest its resources in GiGaPower moving forward.