AT&T Promises A Cornucopia Of Broadband Investment…But Only If Trump Gives It A Giant Tax Cut & A Shiny New Merger

from the Charlie-Brown-and-the-football dept

For decades now, AT&T has promised that an incredible boon in broadband investment is waiting just around the corner — but only if AT&T gets what it wants from the government. Whether it’s gunning for tax cuts and subsidies, or looking for approval of its latest megamerger, AT&T’s an absolute master of the regulatory carrot and a stick game. Even if the carrot is entirely hallucinated, as we saw when AT&T threatened to curtail already minimal fiber optic deployment unless net neutrality was killed.

Of course because AT&T doesn’t face meaningful competition in most markets, and few members of either party of government are truly interested in doing much of anything about this problem, this investment explosion never really materializes one way or the other. That’s why millions upon millions of AT&T customers still pay an arm and a leg for last-generation DSL speeds, AT&T’s consistently under fire for failing to upgrade many cities, and most of the company’s network can’t offer speeds remotely close to the gigabit-speeds now being offered by cable.

Yet somehow, each and every time AT&T comes stumbling toward government with its hand outstretched, we oddly and mysteriously ignore this history lesson and provide AT&T with absolutely every benefit of the doubt. Case in point: with AT&T looking for Trump administration approval of its $85 billion Time Warner deal, the company last week trotted out its latest promise: a massive wave of broadband investment if the company sees some major tax cuts and has its latest merger approved; a narrative the press was happy to reiterate without qualification:

Ahead of the tech meeting, Stephenson told “Squawk Box” the company will increase its capital investments if Trump delivers on tax reform by the end of the year.

“I don’t think we’re unique. I think you would see this happen across all industries, and with every player in our industry,” he said.

You’ll recall that Trump originally threatened to block AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner on the campaign trail, claiming it was “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” But Trump has since given every indication that he intends to approve the deal, and his recently hired antitrust boss at the DOJ is on record saying he thinks the deal should be approved.

Consumer advocates worry an even larger AT&T will use its expanded broadcaster power to hamstring licensing access to streaming competitors. They’re also concerned AT&T will use usage caps, overage fees and “zero rating” to give its own content an unfair advantage. But because there’s about 100 AT&T lobbyists at any one moment lobbying DC lawmakers to approve the deal, most analysts now think it should sail through with modest, if any, conditions.

It will be just the latest victory for a company that has recently convinced government to kill consumer broadband privacy protections, dismantle net neutrality, end an effort to bring competition to the cable box, and is now pushing government to further hamstring regulatory oversight of one of the least competitive markets in America. Last week, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Trump spent much of a full day lavishing praise upon one another, including this bit of heady telecom sector analysis from Donald:

“With Stephenson seated to his right, Trump said AT&T was “like two companies” ? “you started, then it was made different by government and now here you are again.” The president added that such a reinvention over the years was “not easy to do.”

Of course AT&T didn’t “re-invent” itself as-so-much as it got blown up by government for being a predatory monopoly, after which it slowly but surely re-assembled itself via a wave of brand acquisitions (SBC, Ameritech, Bellsouth and ultimately the AT&T brand itself). It then lobbied state and federal governments to not only ignore the lack of competition in the broadband market, but to pass laws protecting it from competition. So yes, while that’s impressive in and of itself, the end result has been a company with an indisputably vicious history of anti-consumer policies, anti-competitive behavior and outright fraud.

And while AT&T has been caught repeatedly lying about the job and broadband investment benefits of blind deregulation and M&As, that never gets factored in to assessing the credibility of whatever AT&T’s pushing today. And it’s clearly not going to be a problem for a Trump administration that has already been taking credit for telecom sector jobs it had absolutely nothing to do with. AT&T’s merger pitches are always rife with bullshit and bravado on the job creation and broadband expansion front, but with Trump’s help, you can expect AT&T to take things to an entirely new level once the deal is formally approved later this year.

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Comments on “AT&T Promises A Cornucopia Of Broadband Investment…But Only If Trump Gives It A Giant Tax Cut & A Shiny New Merger”

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38 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Depends on your perspective

The public, states, and government on a large scale is guaranteed to be screwed just like they have every other time. However, I imagine the reason that standard lies are accepted at face value is because when it comes to buying politicians the company had made it clear that that sort of ‘investment’ is one it has no problem dumping plenty of money into, and will actually follow through, unlike that insignificant ‘customer service’ bother.

Hugh Jasohl (profile) says:

Too Big to Succeed

Companies like AT&T that have grown too large, have no incentive to improve customer service or invest in network improvements. They are too invested in wringing every cent out of already build networks and allowing the government to pay them even more for unconstitutional taps on the backbones themselves. They have become State Actors without the label or the regulation of actually being part of the government.

hij (profile) says:

Re: Too Big to Succeed

Part of the reason it grew too big is that when Bell was originally broken up, it was broken up geographically. Instead of one big monopoly we had a whole lot of smaller monopolies, and they were not competing except for long distance calling. The subsequent mergers allowed for a broader geographical monopoly, and now that geography is important again we are back where we started.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Too Big to Succeed

No, they also divorced long distance, local, and equipment. (And sadly, research.) And made it so others could compete on the same wires, and and any phone equipment could be used by the customer.

The problem is allowing such mergers/buyouts in the first place, and not limiting corporations in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's me again!

“But Trump has since given every indication that he intends to approve the deal, and his recently hired antitrust boss at the DOJ is on record saying he thinks the deal should be approved.”

This is how it all got started. “Intentional” Failure of anti-trust enforcement. We are getting played again and people’s reaction will be to ask for more regulation. Instead of getting rid of the scum that caused this problem we are going to repeat history and run to another scum to fix it for us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ability to compete in doubt

“The ability to compete in today’s business enviroment is inversely proportional to the number of lobbyists attempting to block competition”

When the # of lawyers working for a company exceeds the # of engineers working for the company, the company is no longer interested in competing (probably because it can’t), but is more interested in stifling competition by means of lobbyists and campaign contributions.

In addition to P/E ratios, public companies need to publish L/E ratios (lawyers to engineer ratios).

Baron von Robber says:

“You’ll recall that Trump originally threatened block AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner on the campaign trail, claiming it was “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” But Trump has since given every indication that he intends to approve the deal, and his recently hired antitrust boss at the DOJ is on record saying he thinks the deal should be approved.”

So what’s new?

*tosses Trumplethinskin 180 onto mountain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yea, I warned my republican friends that Drumpf is likely going to stab them in the back.

Sadly I had about as much success with that as when I told my democrat friends that Obamy was stabbing them in the back.

The only real difference is that no one called me a racist when I trash talked Drumpf.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you think that then you are fairly ignorant.

I have been trying to get people to stop bending over for the two party system. It’s not working, they have proven that there are far too many people like you running around that they can sucker into voting for them so they have no reason to clean up their act.

Both parties are rotten to the core, just in different ways, but neither are a service to their electorates.

Baron von Robber says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I know Obama has a few over 8 years that don’t add up to Trumple’s 6 months.

1)Border wall
2)Draining the swamp
3)Locking up Hillary
4)90 days to review vetting (we at day 159 now, where is it?)
5)Press confs having video turned off
6)No visitor’s logs to the WH
7)Everybody covered, less for premiums, better care
8)Nepotism

in 6 months.

Obama, your turn, I’ll give ya a head start…

1)If you like your doctor…

slowgreenturtle (profile) says:

The Monster in the Mirror

“Of course AT&T didn’t “re-invent” itself as-so-much as it got blown up by government for being a predatory monopoly…” It was a government created monopoly. No one was able to compete with AT&T because the government prevented them. Wasn’t the companies fault.

Why is AT&T requesting so many tax cuts? Because the taxes exist. We’ve buried our companies under billions of dollars in taxes and fees and wasted hours trying to put all these forms together so they can pay their taxes.

We need to stop regulating these companies, get out of their way–stop trying to give them special favors and take favors away–let them succeed or fail based upon their ability.

The whole approach of the article is wrong. Yes, AT&T is incompetent, but as long as we have regulated markets, they’re going to continue to be.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The Monster in the Mirror

Proportional representation has its advantages, but I’m fairly sure it also has downsides – and I’m more sure that even with a proportional-representation system, as long as we still use single-choice voting there will still be incentive for strategic voting rather than expressing your actual preferences.

IMO, a switch to ranked-preference voting (preferably Condorcet-satisfying) is still an essential step, regardless; the possibility of proportional representation strikes me as an orthogonal change.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Someone might want to put a 1 page history lessong in front of Pres. Trump, showing him all of the promises the industry has made to get deals and how often they reneged while enjoying the benefits.

We still are paying into that universal access thingy, even ad something like 19 (?) states have agreed to let them exit pots if subscriber numbers drop… but they still are taking the cash. They want to exit dense urban areas, but we’re to trust they are still rolling out POTS to the rural corners of the country?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

ha ha… 1 page won’t be enough, and don’t forget to have his name somewhere in the report or he wont read it.

We actually need that for the voters. A 1 page list of all of the promises their politicians have made.

If we citizens do not hold our dirt bags accountable, then our dirt bags will not be holding anyone else accountable either, and it is very dishonest for us to expect them too while we sit back and do nothing.

ECA (profile) says:

LINE OF BS...

The gov used to do something interesting..
They have tried many ways to get CORPS TO DO THINGS..
From the Intercontinental Rail, to the parks system..

THE ONE BITCHED AT most, was hiring PEOPLE as Fed employees, and PAYING AN HOUSING THEM to get jobs done..Including the parks system.

DONT PAY THESE IDIOTS…HIRE the people in this country to DO THE JOB.. THEN sell LEASE back to the corporations IF they want to use the system… We did the same with the OLD internet and the Dams, built by this nation..

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