AT&T CEO John Stankey yesterday called President Biden's plan to fund municipal broadband networks "misguided" and said the US shouldn't pay for any broadband deployment in areas that already have networks. But as AT&T and other ISPs lobby against public networks and government-funded competition, Stankey said he is confident that Congress will steer legislation in the more "pragmatic" direction that AT&T favors.
In an interview with The Economic Club of Washington, DC, (video), Stankey was asked, "Do you support the president's proposal to have municipalities own broadband facilities?" Stankey responded, "I think actually the president's proposal is probably a bit misguided in that regard."
"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."
AT&T and other private ISPs have taken billions from the government to deploy incremental upgrades in rural areas over the years, and they don't want public networks getting any of the cash they're accustomed to receiving. 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.