Major Carriers Shun Broadband Stimulus
The Obama administration made a national priority of spreading high-speed Internet access to every American home and offered stimulus money to help companies pay for it, but the biggest network operators are staying away from the program.
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.
Obama has pushed for universal access to broadband since his presidential campaign, saying it would underpin the country’s economic future. The stimulus funds target homes and businesses in the hinterlands that have largely been overlooked by broadband providers because of the hefty costs to lay down fiber-optic and other broadband pipes to small communities.
One official at a large network operator said on the condition of anonymity that once taken, government funds incite a « mob mentality » that could preclude sponsoring golf tournaments or giving executives bonuses, for fear of political backlash.