The U.S. is lagging behind developed nations, notably China, in terms of deploying a “deep spectrum footprint” that would allow for more seamless online connectivity across the country, John Stankey, the CEO of AT&T, said at Semafor’s “Igniting Innovation: America’s Digital Future” event on Tuesday.
“The United States is not in an enviable position right now for the next 10 years,” Stankey said.
The chief of the telecom giant said he sees tremendous opportunity to have robust connectivity in the U.S., especially with the integration of artificial intelligence. He suggested that by integrating AI into 5G networks, things like traffic management and alleviating congestion on roads will improve.
On the FCC’s recent proposal to restore net neutrality rules that were rescinded under Donald Trump’s presidency, Stankey said that AT&T “would do all the things we need to do” to try and deal with it.
Stankey said that his company would be a constructive participant in the discussions, and was “optimistic” that “reasonable and intelligent people... come up with an approach that makes sense.”
But, he added, “if it doesn’t play out that way, and there’s something damaging into investment, into business, we’re of course going to do all the things we need to do to ensure that people who invest their money are ultimately taken care of.”
The View From
We’ve been investing in our country’s broadband infrastructure at historic levels, and smart broadband policy is necessary to ensure the private sector keeps building the backbone of America’s digital future. That means a competitive grant process for once-in-a-generation BEAD program funding. It means allowing providers to redeploy resources away from outdated copper networks and toward fiber and wireless that better meets today’s data demands. And it means maintaining the light-touch regulatory environment that has spurred more choices for consumers and the sturdy broadband networks that carried the U.S. through the pandemic and continues to drive new innovation.
The same is true for wireless networks. Spectrum is the conduit that carries data across our mobile networks — think of it like invisible fiber-optic cable — and without enough of it, our access to wireless connectivity will suffer. In the U.S., the federal government controls access to spectrum, which is why Congress must create a strategic spectrum pipeline and authorize the Federal Communications Commission to auction it to the private sector — efforts that will likely raise billions for the U.S. Treasury.