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Largest ISPs Say No Thanks To Stimulus Funds
Already flush with cash, ISPs don't want added scrutiny...
by Karl Bode 10:07AM Friday Aug 14 2009
When Qwest recently announced they'd be turning down stimulus funds, we noted that other carriers would likely follow suit as part of a coordinated effort to have broadband grant money rules changed. As it stands, the grants are being restricted to carriers willing to offer service in more rural areas, markets companies like Verizon have been busy selling because they don't provide enough income to please investors. The Washington Post now cites sources close to AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that say all three won't apply for the funds for various reasons:
Their reasons are varied. All three say they are flush with cash, enough to upgrade and expand their broadband networks on their own. Some say taking money could draw unwanted scrutiny of business practices and compensation, as seen with automakers and banks that have taken government bailouts. And privately, some companies are griping about conditions attached to the money, including a net-neutrality rule that they say would prevent them from managing traffic on their networks in the way they want.
Privately? The Post interviews two ISP lobbying organizations (USTelecom and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation) who've been very publicly whining about the unfairness of the attached conditions for months to anyone who'll listen. Their complaints have been anything but private.

The nation's super carriers, already flush with cash reserves, had no real intention of pursuing the funds anyway, but it gives their lobbying organizations a nice opportunity to publicly grandstand about the unfairness of the fairly tepid network neutrality protections attached to the funds. Like any American company, these carriers prefer their taxpayer dollars with no conditions and no accountability. Of course, there's no denying the long and sordid history of these carriers taking incentives, tax breaks and subsidies, with politicians conveniently falling asleep when it came time to see if promises were kept, or if the incentives were used as intended.

Giving millions to these companies may not make sense anyway, given most of them have no real interest in rural deployment, and in many cases have already spent millions on lobbying efforts geared toward banning towns and cities from wiring themselves when major ISPs wouldn't (surely somebody somewhere sees the irony here). As it stands, there's a flood of new rural-focused ISPs and smaller wireless operators for whom the funds make much more sense. These smaller carriers actually want to do business in rural America, and actually need the cash.

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