Random Lengths News

AT&T’s Monopoly in Wilmington

- By Sean S. Doyle, Resident of Leeward Bay Marina, Wilmington

I am compelled to write about AT&T’s complete monopoly on a microcosm of businesses in Wilmington and using “vulture capitalism” tactics to extract larcenous fees from small businesses. It puts into question whether a company whose underlying ‘premise’ is to help businesses operate actually wants to assist them in not remaining in business.

I am a partner in a marina in the Wilmington basin, where we operate along with a number of other marinas. Over the past few years, AT&T has raised its phone rates in our area so drasticall­y that now we are being forced to pay the exorbitant price of $800 per month for simply having one phone in our office! This is happening because the only other competitor who offers service in the Wilmington area, Spectrum Business, does not have service that extends into our area, an area from the Terminal Island bridge to out along the Cerritos Channel into the East Basin.

In effect, we are in a “no-options” no man’s land, and this has created a vacuum where AT&T feels free to “hose” us since there seems to be no laws or regulation­s to cap its greed. On top of this insanity, it only covers our local calling, so we are forced to pay for a separate long-distance carrier, putting our total phone charges upwards of $1,000 a month! Who knows what AT&T may want to charge come 2023, while we struggle to pay out an “exaction tribute” of $12,000 annually.

When I inquired of Spectrum for the possibilit­y of bringing its service to our own marina, I was told that to do so would most likely cost us upwards of at least $40,000(!) based on similar situation in another location. Spectrum would cover separate upfront costs of $5,000 to $8,000. A near impossible “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” scenario. How are we, as a small business, supposed to remain in business under these

conditions?

I spoke with someone at the Wilmington Chamber and learned that when AT&T raised its (and our) rates two years ago to $700 a month and balked, the chamber was told there was nothing it could do about it since its old plan was an expired promotion and now had no other options. This is untrue since Spectrum covers downtown and the chamber’s building was wired to accept Spectrum. Of course, AT&T had to have known this, so when the chamber told them they were “done”, AT&T immediatel­y changed its “option” tune and tried to woo it back with a cheaper plan,

which the chamber rejected, and now have a favorable plan with Spectrum. And by the way, the chamber rightly, and courageous­ly, filed a complaint with the state of California.

This whole thing begs the question: if Spectrum knows its only other competitor is AT&T and competes with them elsewhere in Wilmington, why would it essentiall­y ‘gift’ AT&T with a complete monopoly of our area? Does this possibly speak to AT&T’s “reach” as far as its size, seniority or influence?

The answer is that this needs more publicity, immediate investigat­ion, and legal action to enforce equitable business practices.

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