John Stankey

John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, named the effective implementation of BEAD Program funding—in service of closing the digital divide—as the most critical issue facing the telecommunications industry, in a speech at the US Telecom Leadership Summit last week.

At the Summit, held June 23-25 in Park City, Utah, Stankey named “the three most important issues before us today.” The first two issues both relate to bringing connectivity to all Americans: (1) “sound implementation of the historic opportunity to expand broadband,” and (2) replacing the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) with new subsidies for low-income households.

Calling closing the digital divide “today’s broadband universal service challenge,” Stankey praised congress for creating the BEAD Program as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Unfortunately,” said Stankey, “what was bipartisan compromise at the federal level has, in many cases, turned into ideologically driven state policies that could undercut the program’s effectiveness and legislative intent.”

AT&T BEAD Recommendations

To close the digital divide, Stankey said, additional policies should be created to ensure that all BEAD Program funds (“every dollar of taxpayer money”) are used to expand access to broadband as quickly as possible.

Naming affordability as another obstacle to connectivity, Stankey praised programs like the ACP. But he criticized the present arrangement, in which four Universal Service Funds (USF) are managed by different departments. “No one sees the bigger picture and the broader outcomes we are trying to achieve.”

To overcome affordability issues, Stankey suggested that Congress should create new subsidy programs. He argued that big tech companies—like Apple, Google, and Meta—should be among the companies responsible for subsidies, since those companies offer voice-equivalent services like texting, email, and VoIP.

With his emphasis on access and affordability, Stankey’s comments align with AT&T’s ongoing corporate commitment to connectivity, as demonstrated by their previous investments in expanding broadband networks.

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