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"We" (the government) didn't build it or pay for it. Even back in the AT&T monopoly era it was always private infrastructure.[1] AT&T got certain rights (e.g. easements) but that also came with a lot of strings attached (they had to build in a bunch of rural places they never would've built otherwise). Public ownership of the wires was never part of the bargain.

[1] The same is true for power lines. They're mostly privately owned. The power utilities are subject to various regulations (rate regulation, etc.) but the wires were built with private money and are private property. In contrast, most water/sewer lines are owned by the municipality, and paid for by the public through taxes and hook-up fees for new construction.




> We" (the government) didn't build it or pay for it.

This is not and has not ever been true.

Here [1] is an open auction with ~$2 billion in federal aid attached - "a total of $1.98 billion for 10 years." This was last updated just over a week ago. I would dig further back for other subsidies, but it is not necessary. Through tax breaks and subsidies we (the government, tax payers, etc) have certainly aided infrastructure build out for telecom cos.

[1] https://www.fcc.gov/caf2-auction


The Connect America Fund is funded through a special tax on telcos: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Service_Fund#Connect.... It's likes taxing cell phone companies to provide free phones for low-income people. Yes, some cell phone companies will end up getting "subsidies" but companies like AT&T (or Apple) would be net payors. And whether or not you call that a "subsidy" in rural areas, everywhere outside of rural areas it's the opposite of "subsidized." The taxes that pay for CAF make service in urban areas more expensive, thus decreasing demand and revenue. Municipalities also treat telecom service as a revenue source (a tax of 5% of gross revenue is typical). And there's all the extra obligations, like build-out requirements.

There was some tax dollar funded subsidies in the ARRA, but it's a vanishingly small fraction of the trillion+ dollars invested in telecom infrastructure in the last few decades.


> The Connect America Fund is funded through a special tax on telcos

Is this one of the taxes that they just throw straight onto my monthly bill?


One, companies can’t just pass on taxes like that. If they add a surcharge, that increases the price of the product, which reduces demand. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps: you can’t increase your revenue by having the government add a tax to your product and kick it back to you, maybe unless you sell heroin or something. (But then you could just raise the price without the pretense and people would pay it.)

Two, AT&T is paying the tax, but the government is mostly kicking the subsidies back to small rural telcos and coops. Telcos with more urban footprints, like AT&T, subsidize telcos in high cost rural areas.

So calling CAF a subsidy to AT&T really makes no sense. It’s like saying Apple would love the government to slap a 5% tax on iPhones and kick the money to providers of low cost phones. Even if Apple could increase prices to compensate, and get some of those subsidies for the iPhone SE, it’d still be worse off than without the “subsidy.”


Oh please. Incumbents love USF, just like they love all other goofy surcharges. That's whey they invented them in the first place. Sure, their customers pay more than those of their competitors, but through their complete domination of PUCs and FCC they get to decide exactly how the programs are administered. As if they actually needed more barriers to entry for any potential competition, the rules of these programs are continually adjusted to fit exactly what incumbents are doing anyway, while imposing ruinous costs on competitors.


Pure fantasy. AT&T got $1.3 billion from the USF in 2007-10. https://www.fiercetelecom.com/telecom/at-t-verizon-are-rolli.... About $450 million per year.

The FCC doesn’t disclose USF contributions by company, but you can guess: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-303886A3.p.... Total reported telecom revenue is about $300 billion per year during that period. AT&T averaged $120 billion per year in revenue during that period (about 40% of the industry). (This is probably an overestimate because AT&T’s revenue includes non-telecom revenue.)

During that period, USF revenues were $7-8 billion per year. 40% of that is like $3 billion. Even if I’m wrong about AT&T’s revenue share by a factor of 4 AT&T still pays in much more than it gets out.


I would wonder if the subsidies and tax breaks that have been given over to these companies by the government over the years would count towards the idea us having paid for it. There's always that scandal from decades ago that comes up from time-to-time.


Companies were not given subsidies or tax breaks to pay for telephone or power lines. They were allowed to have local monopolies, in exchange for the requirement they provide utility services to all customers in the area, without regard to the cost of building out service to those customers.


The government can't just go and deem something it's property after the fact, even if "we paid for it".


It can be "ours" without being government property.



It would also then, have to pay AT&T for it. ...Again. Because AT&T presently owns their property, and regardless of any handouts they've been given, they'd need to be compensated for it's fair market value in order for the government to relieve them of it.

Also, it's likely eminent domain attempts for Google's benefit would run afoul of the law. I don't think the government can eminent domain something for the benefit of another corporation.


Actually it can. The government is the only thing that enforces the notion of property in the first place




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