This option didn't work for me because 1) I'd be paying out of pocket to ensure coverage when in my mind that is AT&T's responsibility
No. This is NOT their responsibility.
So, you build a house somewhere else and you want AT&T to cater to you? Maybe it's something you should have looked at before building? Why should a private company built a cell tower somewhere that isn't profitable for them because you decided to move there? Their job is to make money, not cover every possible location.
But the problem is, AT&T didn't initially state they would eat the ETF. They told him to purchase one of those microcell things. As n0b0dykn0ws mentions, this would cut in to the DSL cap just to ensure coverage and avoid the ETF.
Most people would probably think they are screwed (because of the ETF) and just purchase the microcell for $200.
In my opinion, AT&T should have agreed to eat the ETF at the beginning since they do not have service in the area requested.