Dear Gov. Newsom: Are You Going to Back the ALEC-AT&T-CTIA Takeover of the FCC?

Bruce Kushnick
10 min readSep 27, 2021

Don’t Sign: Investigate the CA Corporate-ALEC Wireless Bills.

We’ve been doing some digging.

  • Is there a corporate conspiracy here?
  • Shouldn’t there be an investigation of how the CA wireless bills ended up on your desk?
  • There are skunkworks-deceptive forces behind this 5G preemption legislation.

There are two 5G wireless bills in front of you that should not be signed into law as they will harm the rights of cities to control their own destiny and public rights of way. Moreover, these bills were created, as far as we can tell, by AT&T and the wireless industry, including the CTIA, the national wireless trade association, at the American Legislative Exchange Council, (better known as ALEC), as ‘model legislation’ that have been used in many states throughout America over the last decade.

The attempt to push through this legislation now is due to the knee-jerk reaction to close the Digital Divide that was exposed by the pandemic. Unfortunately, with institutional amnesia having taken over, no one seems to remember that this has been a long standing problem caused by a failure of AT&T et al. to properly upgrade their networks over the last 30 years.

Our previous letters discussed the lack of infrastructure — but this is not just about a lack of broadband or even about these corporate-sponsored wireless bills; this is about the wholesale takeover of our democracy through a stealth and deceptive process demonstrated by: “Carr’s 5G Order”.

“Carr’s 5G Order”?

What we uncovered is a great deal more insidious and deceptive. These CA bills reference 5G rules that are from the FCC — but, they are based on ALEC-AT&T-CTIA et al. created model legislation — and are being pushed by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. In fact, the FCC regulations are actually called “Carr’s 5G Order”, Sep 26, 2018 — by the FCC.

We didn’t know a Commissioner could private-label an FCC decision, much less a supposedly important one that claims it “Positions U.S. to Win the Race to 5G, Accelerates Small Cell Build Out.” Seeing is believing, they say, so here is a snapshot of the exact page.

There are a litany of issues that must be addressed:

NOTE: We freely admit we did not know most of the story and still do not know the full involvement of the CTIA, AT&T, ALEC, the other Big Telecom companies, or the politicians who presented these bills.

First, over a decade ago, the CTIA, the wireless association, took San Francisco to court, when you were Mayor, over wireless issues. Brendan Carr was one of the lawyers that represented the CTIA. (And the CTIA continued this case against Berkeley CA for years as well.)

(We note that Carr also represented Verizon in front of the FCC to remove obligations related to the corrupted accounting rules, and in both cases, Carr never mentioned having worked for the industry in his congressional testimony to become FCC commissioner.)

Fast forward, and in 2018, Brendan Carr is an FCC Commissioner who is leading the FCC on 5G issues.

In fact, the FCC press releases discuss “Carr’s 5G Order”, but what is missing is full disclosure. The FCC’s plan is based on the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, ‘model legislation’. This legislation has been created by AT&T and Verizon et al. at ALEC conferences for over a decade. And now, AT&T et al. figured out how to have the ALEC bills be enshrined as FCC policy and regulations.

Worse, the FCC regulations are quoted by the current proposed CA Wireless bills — but there is no disclosure that these bills were created by AT&T, the CTIA and ALEC.

Thus, the FCC’s entire 5G regulations have been hijacked by the Big Telecom corporations.

This is a slight of hand that will go down in history as one of the largest ALEC takeovers — a stealth move in plain sight.

In fact, in the announcement of ‘Carr’s FCC 5G Order’, there are references that twenty states have used this ‘small cell’ legislation (as of 2018) — I.e., twenty states that were also hoodwinked to use an ALEC “model” bill that is all about corporate interests and in no way represents municipalities or the Public’s interests.

The press release for Carr’s 5G Order states:

“Carr’s 5G order…builds off of small cell reform legislation enacted in 20 states. The order cuts exorbitant regulatory fees and expedites the approval process for small cells, while reaffirming local governments’ legitimate role in siting decisions, including aesthetic reviews. Small cells are the physical building blocks of 5G.”

How the ALEC Takeover of the Legislative/Regulatory Process Works.

Corporations work with ALEC to create ‘model legislation’ on all topics.

ALEC has been characterized as a “Bill Mill”, and was set up as a venue for the corporations and their “Free Market” state legislators, who often receive corporate PAC funds, to develop model legislative language and the talking points that will implement their corporate agenda for legislation, policy and regulations.

Associations to Cover Over Tracks, Plausible Deniability

The ALEC corporate membership is mostly private, but the Big Telecom companies also are represented by their national trade associations, including “USTelecom”. These same telecom companies also control the majority of the nation’s wireless networks, the Cellcos, and they are represented by a separate trade association, the “CTIA”. These trade associations act as front groups to hide their members, the telecom wireline and wireless companies, while representing their interests, some would say doing their dirty work, before state legislatures and utility commissions and in DC before the FCC, FTC, DoJ and Congress. However, through mergers on telecom issues, these organizations work mainly for AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink (renamed Lumen), holding companies that control much of the wired and wireless networks — one, big, happy family.

Throw Money: Capture (Reward) Politicians

ALEC also has many state politicians as members who are sucking on the corporate teat — many are groomed by AT&T et al. to have positions of power in the state legislatures and so regardless if they are a card carrying member of ALEC or not, they are funded, not only through the traditional campaign financing, but also through foundation grant money to be used in their districts to make them look good to their constituents by delivering benefits to their district.

They introduce these ALEC ‘model’ bills, which they take credit for, dress them up a bit, and get votes by using the corporate talking points and because most of the legislature has either also gotten funding from AT&T et al. or because they believe whatever hype is attached — in this case the bills will “solve the Digital Divide”. As has been pointed out in the prior letters, the telcos’ actions over the past forty years have caused the Digital Divide by their actions and absence.

Thus, the current proposed California wireless bills are a continuation of the ALEC bills that have been passed by the state legislature and have the fingerprints of AT&T. Now, they also quote the FCC’s 5G regulations, which are also based on AT&T-ALEC model legislation, and it has been at the behest of Commissioner Carr.

And this has been happening, especially during the Trump Administration, in every aspect of life, from education to voting rights, using ALEC as a way to get states to be bought off.

NOTE: MORE ABOUT ALEC: Center for Media and Democracy’s Sourcewatch has been tracking ALEC’s activities, industries, impacts, corporations and politicians involved for a decade. Bill Moyers “The United States of ALEC” aired in 2012. Common Cause has done considerable work on ALEC. Our series on ALEC and the model legislation to block municipalities and put forward multiple bills on everything from shutting down the state utilities to wireless appeared in Harvard Neiman Watchdog, 2007.

To repeat: How do we know that the Carr’s 5G Order is based on ALEC model legislation? The press release for Carr’s 5G Order states:

“Carr’s 5G order…builds off of small cell reform legislation enacted in 20 states.”.

And it is clear that Carr is just parroting Big Telecom, claiming that the speeds would be 100 times faster than 4G, or that it would be good for rural areas.

“The next generation of wireless service that promises speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G and enables new technologies such as IoT devices and autonomous vehicles.”

This ‘fact’ is laughed off by reputable research and tech publications — as ludicrous. It was clear it was used to remove the regulations and obligations of the wired networks, a bait and switch strategy that AT&T has done multiple times — use ‘high tech’ promises that will come tomorrow — for regulatory relief today.

Carr Statement: FCC Establishes a 5G Fund for Rural America is equally ridiculous as 5G requires a fiber optic wire to be used and no company is going to do rural areas without billions in government subsidies; history shows the funds will somehow never make it to building the fiber required.

Technology aside, in all of this, no politician, or the companies, or the FCC, much less Commissioner Carr, ever discusses that there is an unnamed underground network to deceive the public and put forward AT&T’s Cellco agenda, that obviously benefits the Corporate Interest, before the Public Interest. There is no transparency, nothing that exposes this organized cartel, this organized mob that is funded through both publicly disclosed funds as well as other activities via ALEC — with no oversight or public disclosure.

Questionable Analysis Was Used to Strengthen the Carr 5G Order.

And it gets worse and deeper. To reinforce the “Carr 5G Order’ an ‘economic analysis’ was submitted to the FCC, as if on cue, claiming that there would be $2 billion in savings and an additional $2.4 billion in stimulated infrastructure investment.

“September 5, 2018 — A new economic analysis submitted to the FCC today shows that Commissioner Brendan Carr’s 5G order will save $2 billion in unnecessary costs and stimulate an additional $2.4 billion in infrastructure investment. The additional small cells that will be built due to the order will cover 1.8 million more homes and businesses, with 97% of that next-gen coverage concentrated in rural and suburban communities, according to the study.”

We note that in our previous letter we discussed how an investigation of the financial accounting used by AT&T CA could be worth $1–2 billion dollars annually to California, which could be used to cover the entire state with fiber optics. This FCC-submitted independent report is not independent but is designed as part of the AT&T CA disinformation campaign.

But on the ‘how low can you go’ scale — imagine our surprise when we saw a press release that said:

Local Government Support Builds for Carr’s 5G Order

“More than Several Dozen Mayors, Local Officials, and State Lawmakers Back Order

“WASHINGTON — On September 26, the FCC will take its next step in ensuring that the United States wins the global race to 5G, the next generation of wireless service, to the benefit of communities across the country. It will do so by voting on the grassroots reforms championed by local and state officials. Their commonsense ideas are key to supporting the deployment of small cells, which are the building blocks of 5G.

“More than several dozen mayors, local officials, and state lawmakers have called on the FCC to streamline the rules governing small cell buildout,’ Commissioner Carr stated. ‘They want the FCC to build on the commonsense reforms adopted in state legislatures and town councils across the country so that every community — from big city to small town — gets a fair shot at next-generation connectivity. As they put it, FCC action will help spur investment and infrastructure buildout in their communities, while helping the U.S. win the race to 5G. I am glad to see the support from this diverse group of state and local officials.”

Unfortunately, this is not a diverse group; when we go through who signed onto the letter, we see that almost all of the representatives have ties to ALEC, or AT&T or CTIA or Verizon or… Here’s a few:

Rep. Kathy Byron, State Representative, Virginia: “Your determination to come forward with a plan — modeled on the regulatory reforms enacted in 20 states, including Virginia — increasing access to 5G connectivity will positively affect the lives of people across our nation.”

Mayor Ashton Hayward receives the CTIA 5G Wireless Champion Award, Aug 29, 2018 — PRNewswire — “CTIA, the wireless industry association, today presented Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward with its 5G Wireless Champion Award.”

Rep. Jason Seine, State Representative, North Carolina: Representative Jason Saine represents the 97th North Carolina House District which encompasses Lincoln County. Representative Saine is serving his third term.

Captured: ALEC on the FCC Consumer Advisory Committee

The ultimate way of pushing through bad FCC regulations was to capture the ‘Consumer Advisory Committee’ and other committees, and this FCC went and added ALEC to ensure the proper support.

TechDirt’s headline said it all:

“FCC Under Fire For Putting ALEC Rep On ‘Consumer’ Advisory Board”

But one has only to look at the current mix to see just how captured the FCC’s advisory groups have become and how the CTIA, and other telco groups are funding co-opted non-profits on the Committee, or are on the Committee themselves.


All of this reads like classic corporate strategy that undermines our democratic process that is intended to balance the Public Interest and the Corporate Interest. Governor Newsom and the CA Legislature need to become a model for the rest of the country by leading the way to bring these interests into a balance.

The punchline: AT&T et al. created the Digital Divide — Start investigations into the financial accounting of AT&T California, the state telecommunications public utility for the cross-subsidies of wireless and the other lines of business, then use the money to build out open access networks — to all Californians who already paid for a fiber optic future through higher rates on all services.



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.