AT&T Whines About Biden Focus On Community Broadband

from the want-some-cheese-with-that dept

We noted how while the Biden broadband plan was arguably vague, a big part of its core focus was community broadband. In stark contrast to the Trump administration and GOP -- which think such efforts should be banned -- the Biden administration seems to recognize such efforts are a helpful and organic local response to market failure. While such efforts aren't a mystical panacea, they're a helpful way to both drive some needed regional broadband improvements to underserved areas, and force regional telecom monopolies to try just a little harder.

Enter AT&T, which historically has used every trick in the book to prevent community broadband from ever becoming mainstream. That has included dodgy telecom industry funded "studies" falsely claiming such networks are inevitable taxpayer boondoggles, as well as multi-decade support for terrible state laws restricting such efforts, even if locals voted for them.

Last week, AT&T CEO John Stankey, in an interview with the Economic Club, insisted that embracing community broadband (read: competition) was "misguided," claiming that it's not the government's job to get into the broadband business:

"It would be a shame that we take taxpayer money or ask local governments to go into a business that they don't run today," Stankey said. "You know, their job is to deliver water, patch streets, things like that, not be in a capital-intensive technology business that requires constant refresh and constant management."

Except these local governments aren't getting into the broadband industry because it's fun or they want to make Stankey cry. They're doing it because of a multi-decade market failure that has left countless US markets with a lack of broadband options, patchy service, high prices, and substandard customer service.

Stankey is also ignoring the fact that his company has received countless billions in subsidies, tax breaks, and regulatory favors in exchange for fiber networks the company routinely only half deploys. Most recently that included both a $42 billion Trump tax break and the repeal of net neutrality, both of which AT&T promised would result in soaring network investment and significant job growth. In reality, the opposite happened. Why? Because as an apathetic regional monopoly operating under regulatory capture, there's little to nothing prompting AT&T to actually try.

With the exception of local community broadband, that is.

Like most incumbent broadband executives, Stankey insists there is no US broadband problem that needs fixing, and that the 10 Mbps upstream speeds it offers in many markets is good enough:

"Stankey claimed there isn't much of a broadband problem to be solved, as networks "functioned incredibly well for the vast majority of citizens in the United States" during the pandemic. "Why would we want to go overbuild in areas where there's already great infrastructure?" Stankey said, saying that would be a "waste" of subsidy dollars."

Except we don't have "great infrastructure." The US remains largely mediocre on every developed nation broadband metric that matters (especially pricing). Despite decades of throwing billions of subsidies at giants like AT&T, up to 42 million Americans still lack access to broadband, with 83 million living under a monopoly (usually Comcast). It's fairly clear that lobotomizing our regulators then dumping billions into AT&T's lap isn't fixing the problem, but AT&T executives would greatly appreciate it if nobody noticed that.

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Filed Under: community broadband, competition, infrastructure, joe biden
Companies: at&t


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 9:58am

    'not the government's job to get into the broadband business'

    if that is the case, when can we expect AT&T to give back all the public funding that has been given to it BY THE VARIOUS GOVERNMENTS'? that money could have been used to build hospitals and schools! better still, it could have funded a decent health system, one that benefitted everyone so that the poor had treatment, instead of dying and only the rich were being treated! even now, to have competition instead of the selfish monopolies we have would allow more funding to go to more projects and causes, benefitting everyone!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 9:59am

    Still waiting for them to go bankrupt

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 10:21am

    Whinings of a greedy company

    Stankey, your reasoning stanks!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 10:22am

    'Oh, you meant to companies other than you, I see...'

    Here that government, AT&T doesn't want you putting any money into broadband so stop giving them any money, subsidies or tax breaks and let them do everything entirely with their own money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    LACanuck (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 10:48am

    "...their[governments] job is to deliver water, patch streets, things like that, not be in a capital-intensive technology business that requires constant refresh and constant management."

    Maybe I'm wrong, but isn't delivering water and patching streets a capital-intensive business that requires constant refresh and constant management? In other words, other than the word 'technology', it's exactly what governments are supposed to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 12:30pm

      Re:

      Have you seen the condition of many of our water facilities and roads?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 1:56pm

        Re: Re:

        When we refuse to reasonably tax a massive part of the base to keep up those things, yeah that's what happens. It isn't "government mismanagement".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 18 Jun 2021 @ 1:44am

      Re:

      "...isn't delivering water and patching streets a capital-intensive business that requires constant refresh and constant management? In other words, other than the word 'technology', it's exactly what governments are supposed to do."

      ...except in the united states where the concept that a market should solve even the unprofitable aspects of society is nigh religious. Flint is not an outlier and the infrastructure of the US in general is at a point where much of the third world compares favorably to it.

      In the rest of the world if parts of the country finds their drinking water polluted government is expected to fix it, using tax money. In the US "government" will wait for private enterprise to come up with an idea to make such a fix profitable. Which, to no one's real surprise, leaves impoverished area drinking the Flint river.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        lightzout (profile), 19 Jun 2021 @ 5:57pm

        Re: Re:

        Well PG&E is the main utility for electrical power and gas in California. It is a public company that has neglected maitanence in rural areas for decades. Re-investing in infrastructure or catching up on deferred maitenance would impact the profit margins for their shareholders. The execcutives know they are responsible for fires that killed people and destroyed homes every fall the last three years. They also know all the had to do was declare bankrupcy and pay fines a fraction of actual costs. Nothing changes, business as usual. Gavin Newsom takes care of his people (by that I mean wealthy people like the Getty family)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sumgai (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 1:43pm

    ^^^ And that would be because the money for those repiars and such went where it should never have gone in the first place, as pointed out by AC in the very first response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 2:57pm

    The government wouldn't need to get into the broadband business if AT&T were willing to, but they're not, they just want to sit on existing infrastructure and tell others they can't build anything, while lapping up subsidies for services they don't provide in many cases.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave, 17 Jun 2021 @ 1:50am

    Can somebody just tell big corporations like AT&T to shut the fuck up?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Jun 2021 @ 2:35am

      Re:

      Unfortunately so long as they keep buying politicians they will always have a very eager audience quick to accept whatever they say as absolute truth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2021 @ 5:59pm

    So I have A&TT internet. In fact it is Uverse. Supposed marketing fiber. Well in fact it ADSL2+ at best 14M down/0.768Kup. How is this acceptable? You cannot even supply your own bullshit statements of 10M up. I cannot wait for Starlink so I can be totally off grid with all the power company safety shutoffs in the Sierra mountains of California. For you to say that's all I need??? Then why not the same for all the other markets your serve. Oh the competition would leave you in the dust. I know Starlink may or may not be a game changer, but I can only hope for the day to call and cancel your shit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Romilar, 18 Jun 2021 @ 1:30pm

    so, why did we bother?

    why did we spend so much time and money breaking up AT&T in 1982, when we allowed them to essentially reorganize themselves into an even more powerful entity? ....and buy more politicians for themselves? What a total waste!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AlexisR200, 27 Jun 2021 @ 6:59pm

    Irony so thick you could cut it with a knife...

    Pretty sure the government is already wasting tax payer money on community broadband. Its just giving it to AT&T while they do such a bad faith job of it while pocketing Billions over the years in FCC money. Someone perhaps should tell them that in response next time they come out with that BS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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