ALEC Inspired Bill HR3557 is a Wireless Bait and Switch that will Kill Fiber Wireline Deployment.

Bruce Kushnick
10 min readJul 24, 2023

We must kill this put-on, bait and switch wireless bill immediately. Then Congress should actually work on the fundamental questions — How did AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink, along with the cable companies. create the Digital Divide? — And where did all the money go for our fiber optic future that never showed up?

HR3557 claims that wireless companies should be allowed to do what they want and it has been put on a fast track.

Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter’s (R-GA) claims that the reason for this bill

“streamlining the permitting process for upgrading broadband infrastructure so that more Americans have access to internet and the United States can maintain its competitive edge against China.”

China? We will get back to that. But according to many, the passing of this bill through the House Energy and Commerce Committee was a whirlwind that includes the consolidation of many other wireless bills, all designed to help the wireless companies, and remove the rights of cities to control telecommunications in their own towns.

According to NATOA, the association that “advises those responsible for communications policies and services in local governments throughout the country”, the Committee is ramming this through to preempt or undermine property rights of local governments.

“As the level of government closest to the people, we oppose heavy-handed federal overreach into local land use, permitting, and franchise negotiation decisions. Many of the bills the Subcommittee will consider during this hearing would preempt or undermine the property rights of local governments and local governments’ police powers to protect and preserve the safety, well-being and aesthetics of their communities, which Congress and the Constitution have long recognized.”

These bills appear to have been created, paid for by the companies and they use a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, to funnel their agenda via ‘model legislation’ that is peddled by politicians, many of whom are receiving financial assistance, including foundation grant money, campaign financing or now the maneuvering of government subsidies to push through bills that have been around for decades. This new wireless bill appears to be just another ALEC-clone bait and switch — to give carte blanche to the companies over the cities — and people. We’ll come back to this in a moment.

But what is really a slap in the face of the public — Where’s the call for investigations of how the Digital Divide was actually created, or the billions per state paid by local phone customers for fiber optic networks they never received?

And the whopper — The government is giving out over $42 billion to build out America’s infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas. How is it possible that no state-based broadband agency, or the FCC, or the NTIA ever mentions that in every state there are state telecommunications public utilities that were supposed to replace the copper wires with fiber optic wires over the last several decades, even in rural areas, even in low income areas — and they even changed state laws to charge local wired customers — multiple times.

And in every case, these monopoly holding companies that control the state utilities in their service areas were able to erase the perception that they ever existed — worse, then they argue that we should forget about fiber and that wireless is the solution — and it can be rolled out real soon, real fast if this bill is passed.

As an example, in the current state-based broadband plans, with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, not one state mentions these companies’ failure to properly upgrade their territories, creating the Digital Divide:

Example: Starting in 1993, Verizon New Jersey was to have 100% completed by 2010 with fiber to the home; it wasn’t done, and about $17 billion was collected from local telephone customer rate increases and tax breaks by 2021, and that continues today. At the same time, the construction budget for fiber to the home appears to have been diverted year after year to fixed and mobile wireless networks, continuing to this day. The NJ state report never mentions any of this — how is that possible? And this happened in every state — we call it “institutional amnesia”.

But what you don’t know is that AT&T, et al. never had any plans to upgrade the rural areas with fiber optics — ever. They always planned to leave areas stranded, except for high priced, slow wireless services.

AT&T’s 2013 VIP plan claimed that 25% of their territories would be put on wireless — when it was available — screwing 21 states and the majority of US citizens.

Verizon’s CEO Lowell McAdams told investors in 2012 that they would “cut the copper” in rural areas and use wireless instead.

The companies never told the state commissions this was going on, or the public, or the rural areas that had rate increases but never got served by fiber optic wireline networks.

The opening graphic is a map of the holding companies — AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink (Lumen), and the states they control. On top of that is an overlay of the “unserved” and “underserved” areas that were detailed by the FCC in 2022.

ALEC Fingerprints: Look behind the curtain.

A group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, has a telecommunications group — funded by the cable companies, and AT&T and Verizon via their associations, (they claim they are no longer involved but the CTIA wireless association and the NCTA, cable association are ALEC members — as far as we can tell.)

They write model legislation on all telecom topics that is then introduced in state legislatures. This proposed federal legislation is eerily similar to ALEC model legislation. It says in essence — “we do not want local ,county or state control of any wireless service we put in, — and no reviews for environmental, health or safety impact or service quality or universal service requirements or…”

The proposed bills are given to ALEC members, many of whom receive either campaign financing (and grooming) or foundation grant money — and now even state and federal government subsidies that are to be spread around to the same companies that caused the Digital Redlining in the first place. — HR 3557, is a federal version of these state bills.

So imagine our surprise when we find that this bill that was passed through the “The Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C)” — and it has a chairman listed as an ALEC Alumni. Moreover, the bill has a string of corporate clichés that are used — “streamlined”, “vital to our economy” “burdensome process”, “cut red tape”, and the truly awesome “close the Digital Divide” — in almost every ALEC bill pertaining to wireless service.

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA), writes:

“High-speed broadband is a vital part of our economy, yet many Americans still do not have access to these important services. In order to ensure access, especially in rural areas, we need to cut red tape and streamline the burdensome permitting processes at the federal, state, and local level. I applaud these efforts, including Rep. Carter’s leadership, to help close the digital divide and lift permitting burdens so we deploy broadband faster, with less government waste, and more efficiently,” said E&C Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

The New Jersey Access Group states that this was a package of more than 30 bills — all targeting “federal barriers for broadband deployment”

“H.R. 3557 consolidated a slew of bills approved along party lines in this committee at the Communications and Technology’s April 19 hearing: “Breaking Barriers: Streamlining Permitting to Expedite Broadband Deployment”. This unexpected hearing took up more than 30 bills aimed at what was described as ‘Federal Barriers’, ‘State and Local Government Obstacles’, and ‘Pole Attachments’ (access to poles)’ to broadband infrastructure deployment.”

And the relationship with Representative Rogers, (R-WA) and ALEC goes back for years. Here, the American Legislative Exchange Council congratulated Rep Rogers, throwing in she is an alum and supporter of ALEC. March 17, 2016

“Congratulations to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Chair of the House Republican Conference, alumna and supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council and one of Elle Magazine’s “10 Most Compelling Women in Washington”:

What also should scare America is the rest of this wireless story — and how the FCC was also taken over and the ALEC fingerprints are all over Commissioner Brendan Carr’s “Carr’s 5G Order”, — which we documented as part of a package of wireless bills that were being pushed through in California.

Let’s put the cards on the table.

First, where are the calls for investigations of AT&T in Georgia or of CenturyLink Washington, the incumbent, state telecommunications public utilities? Just examine the map closely and these states have large areas of unserved and underserved areas — and it didn’t start with the pandemic.

Rep. Buddy Carter is from Georgia, (and we do not know if he is a member of ALEC) while Cathy McMorris Rodgers is in Washington state.

AT&T, which controls Georgia, (and was formerly part of BellSouth, which was one of the Baby Bells) told the FCC back in 2005 to close the networks to competition and in return they would be putting in fiber to the home. And in the 1990’s, many now AT&T states had claimed they would be replacing the copper wires of the aging utility with fiber, state-by-state.

The captured regulatory agencies and legislatures approved this scheme and thus reestablished monopolies within regional services areas.

But in 2005, this was yet another bait and switch scheme; AT&T rolled out U-verse, a copper to the home service, with a fiber optic wire to a node somewhere in the neighborhood. And, as we now know, U-verse could not do very high speeds and is mostly a one-way service, with top speed down of 75Mbps and 20 Mbps or less uploads.

Fast forward, and the pandemic hits — and we find people experienced these redlined holes in their service areas — but we also find that all of the new ‘solve the digital divide” reports, documents never mention that these state regulated telecom utilities actually exist, much less that they committed to upgrading their networks to fiber decades ago; there has been no tracking of the fiber optic upgrades including whether they are lit or dark or how much money has been collected, including the continuous rate increases charged to local phone customers.

Moreover, wireless service requires a fiber optic wire to the cell tower site, and based on other states, it can be assumed that AT&T et al. transferred the budgets that were supposed to go to replacing the existing copper with fiber — to their wireless build outs. What fiber they did install was mainly to connect the wireless cell sites and switching centers — creating the Digital Divide in Georgia.

But all of AT&T was supposed to have been covered, albeit with slow broadband as a stipulation of the AT&T-BellSouth merger; there would be 100% coverage by 2007–21 states’ critical infrastructure was never upgraded in most areas and left to deteriorate, and even after it was clear the merger conditions were not met, there were no state or federal repercussions.

CenturyLink’s coverage of its territories, including Washington state, has been a tale of neglect. There were announced plans to replace the existing copper with fiber, over the last 3 decades. An Arizona colleague reports that the company finally upgraded service to his home in central Tucson from vDSL to fiber this year. Nearby neighborhoods are still waiting.

In 1993, US West, another one of the Baby Bells that then became absorbed into the CenturyLink, (now Lumen Technologies), which covers WA state, claimed it would be upgrading ½ a million homes annually in their states’ service area and that upgrade was to continue until each of these territories were upgraded.

Can You Answer Basic Questions About Your State’s Fiber Optic Plans?

But here’s the rub — If we ask these Congresspersons what happened in their state, they’ll most likely not have a clue and will come back with “Wireless will solve everything sooner”, and “it is unprofitable to do fiber to the home in rural areas”, that — the sun and the moon aren’t properly aligned is as good an answer to expect.

Representative Carter actually worried about China. But the real problem is — America is considered an international joke. Where’s the call for investigating America’s inflated prices?

  • The US triple play (phone, cable, broadband) averages $220.00 a month — overseas it is $35.
  • Overseas basic 5G broadband plans are $15–20 bucks with 100GB — What are you paying for your wireless service?
  • According to Numbeo, America’s prices are disturbing “Price Rankings by Country of Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL) (Utilities (Monthly) — . In a list of 101 countries, the US was the 5th most expensive — the cheapest was $5.43 vs the US $70.40 — or $65 a month extra in the US. Why?
  • Who allowed our communications bills to have turned in the Christmas Trees covered with Money for these companies that control both wireline and wireless services in their service areas — with made up fees that are also taxed and surcharged?

Congress must stop this charade. We need infrastructure and we need to investigate where all the billions collected went or is now going and it continues to be collected and how much of the construction has been diverted so that the telecom utility construction budgets are now building fixed wireless instead of fiber to the homes, which has been promised for the past three decades but never delivered to the American People.

This latest wireless bait and switch legislation needs to be investigated and then thrown into the garbage pile. It has the fingerprints of an ALEC-Big Telecom-Big Cable put on job that only benefits the Corporate Interest but not the Public Interest.

And what we need is to make sure that the companies who created the Digital Divide are held accountable — before the billions in government subsidies end up lining their pockets yet again.

Wireless is not a substitute for a fiber optic wire to the home; this Corporate/Wall Street narrative has been the sleaze-play for decades — it has to stop. Based on the financial accounting reports, the wireless business was built on the pocketbooks of telephone wireline seniors, low-income families, rural customers, who were impacted disproportionately. The expenses for building the fiber networks ended up going to the wireless networks and the fiber connections they need. Halting these illegal cross-subsidies, that are ongoing, and doing a investigation of America’s excessive prices, is the way to solve the Digital Divide.

We tracked the last 3 decades of broadband — and it is not a pretty picture. Every time the fiber optic plans are announced, like a sickly shadow — wireless will be touted as a substitute.

Violations and Egregious Acts, book 2, has this timeline and the book summarizes a history based on facts that has been missing from the discussions.

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Bruce Kushnick

New Networks Institute,Executive Director, & Founding Member, IRREGULATORS; Telecom analyst for 40 years, and I have been playing the piano for 65 years.