AT&T's Stephenson bullish on wireline broadband, bearish on regulation

Fixed wireline erosion only relates to phone service and won't impact overall wireline business because broadband content will drive demand for services that can only be fed via wires, according to AT&T (NYSE: T) CEO Randall Stephenson in a wide-ranging Q&A with the Dallas Morning News.

"Within a couple of years your expectation will be whatever content is important to you, whether it be video or broadband content, you're going to expect it to be available to you," Stephenson said. And, while he conceded that "the number of voice telephone subscriptions over a fixed-line environment will probably go down till the day I retire," wires will always be as important as wireless spectrum. "A lot of the experiences that you require, a high-def picture on your large-screen TV, cannot be done wirelessly. So fixed-line infrastructure is critical."

The bigger broadband growth threat, he added, is regulation. Any sort of regulatory mandate about pricing, delivery or provisioning of services will cause the industry to cut back on spending for new investment. "I don't think it's combative," he said. "If you impose that kind of regulatory environment on this industry, do you think investment goes up or do you think it goes down? History will tell you it goes down."

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