Dear Governor Newsom, Please Do Not Sign the Corporate-Sponsored Wireless Bills; Start Investigations Instead.

Bruce Kushnick
8 min readSep 20, 2021

California needs investigations into the billions of dollars in cross-subsidies of AT&T California — the wired telecommunications, public utility, that should have funded a fiber optic future for the State. It doesn’t need the corporate-sponsored wireless bills, written with the help of what appears to be ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.

As we will discuss, AT&T et al. created the Digital Divide and they now want to remove the remaining regulations and obligations, and, of course, increase their profits rather than serve its customers with high-speed broadband and internet and compete to lower costs.

ADDED: The Rise and Fall of Fiber Optic Broadband in San Diego California, which had a ‘landmark’ agreement to have the entire city upgraded, starting in 1997, and completed, even in ‘unserved areas’, by 2010… with nothing to show for it.

At the same time, Congress and various state and federal agencies are gearing up to give these companies government subsidies, rewarding them even though they left a trail of broken broadband promises.

In the second letter, we estimate that there has been $1.7-$2.4 billion in potential overcharging annually of Local Service by AT&T California — money that should be redirected to build out the fiber optic networks to the home, even used by municipalities or as open access networks — not controlled by AT&T.

We wrote previously about a wave of wireless bills designed to eliminate the rights of cities, but also used to justify not upgrading the existing state telecommunications infrastructure, and we also focused on those who helped to put these bills into motion.

Pictures: Senator Ben Hueso, (Chairman of the Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Communications) & AT&T Present $45,000 Grant to Urban Corps of San Diego County, his district. Picture of the principal coauthor of AB 537, Assembly Member Quirk getting a $1/2 million check for a project in his area from AT&T. (On the right.)

The bills, draped in the language of public good — and solving the Digital Divide, appears to have fooled most people. We previously wrote:

“California Wireless Legislation: Paid for by AT&T Et Al. 05/15/2017, Huffington Post.

“There is a proposed piece of legislation in California for the deployment of lots of small wireless cell antennas, and this is also happening simultaneously in other states, Congress and at the FCC. And, wouldn’t you know it; those who benefit the most from these state and federal gifts are AT&T et al., the companies who are also funding and engineering these campaigns. In fact, these state bills appear to be based on ‘model legislation’ that was created by the Wireless Infrastructure Association, WIA and by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. “

The Wireless Industry has Never been a Friend of California Cities.

During your time as Mayor of San Francisco, you were involved in a lawsuit that was initiated by the CTIA, the wireless trade association, (with one of the lawyers having been the now-FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr). And in this case, the CTIA claimed that their First Amendment rights had been violated.

At the time, as Mayor of San Francisco, you wrote:

“I am surprised that industry representatives would choose to spend untold sums of money to fight this in the courts, instead of cooperatively working with San Francisco to comply with a reasonable law that provides greater transparency and information without putting any undue burdens on small businesses or discourage cell phone use in any way.”

Does the Governor now believe that these companies are going to act in California’s best interest or more importantly, that cities should lose their rights to determine the future of the city’s technology?

These new bad bills (SB 556, by Sen. Bill Dodd and a companion bill, AB 537, by Assemblymember Bill Quirk) are exploiting the impact of the Digital Divide for the wrong purposes. It took a pandemic to stir up public outrage over the lack of competition for high-speed broadband service and the companies’ decision to leave whole areas of the state to deteriorate, especially rural areas and low income urban areas.

5G has been an industry embarrassment. It requires a fiber optic wire to connect the antenna to the Internet and it has not performed as advertised — it can’t compete with a fiber optic wire, the speeds are a fraction of what was promised, (100 times faster than 4G), and then there is the issue of where is the 5G service actually available and not just a useless icon on your cell phone.

They Created the Digital Divide.

Through institutional amnesia, it seems no one knows that AT&T California (sometimes called “Pac Bell”) is still a state telecom public utility, that it was supposed to have completed state upgrades to fiber optics multiple times and that customers paid billions in increased rates to make this happen — but it still hasn’t.

In 1993, Pacific Bell stated it would replace the existing copper wires for fiber optic services, and by the year 2000 they would spend $16 billion and have 5.5 million households upgraded. This page, from the 1994 Investor Fact Book, lays out the areas that were supposed to be upgraded.

Click for a history of failed fiber optic broadband deployments by AT&T-Pac Bell, (through 2006).

And they used the fiber optic promise to do a bait-and-switch to get rid of regulations and get more profits with “price caps”. Pac Bell started this upgrade process in 1989 with the claim that another technology delivered over copper, ISDN, was needed. (ISDN came to be known as “It Still Does Nothing”.)

When SBC merged with Pac Bell in 1996, it closed almost everything that was being built, didn’t spend the $16 billion and was never held accountable.

Move up a decade, and AT&T announces U-Verse, which the company claimed would be fiber to the home. It was used by former FCC Chairman Michael Powell, (now chairman of the NCTA, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association) to kill off competitors; it would harm investment if the networks were ‘open’ to competition and had to be rented to competitors.

Instead, California got yet another ALEC based bill, known as DIVCA, the Digital Infrastructure and Cable Competition Act, that had claimed it would bring in fiber optic competition and choice. -

Verizon’s statement is particularly poignant, especially since it never upgraded the infrastructure in their territory but instead sold off their California properties to Frontier.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger’s signing of the Digital Infrastructure and Cable Competition Act is a huge victory for California’s consumers. Under this law, California sets a new standard for accelerating cable-TV competition, and customers can expect new choices, greater value and improved service in terms of video providers.

“This landmark legislation unlocks the vast potential of Verizon’s all-fiber network and enables us to more rapidly offer a new alternative to cable — FiOS TV — in dozens of communities where we have already built our 100-percent fiber-optic network. The new law also provides the certainty for Verizon to commit hundreds of millions of dollars in additional investment to accelerate fiber deployment in California, creating hundreds of new jobs and stimulating our state’s economy.”

AT&T, on the other hand, pulled a bait-and- switch, having told the public and FCC that they were rolling out fiber optic services, only to find that they were just using the existing copper wires to deliver U-verse and instead were illegally subsidizing their other lines of business with the construction funds intended for the fiber upgrade.

The Failure of AT&T to Deliver on Fiber Optic Broadband after 30 Years

It appears AT&T took tens of billions of dollars that should have been going to upgrade the State and moved it to their wireless networks or business services, or even sent the money overseas. The map on the left is AT&T’s ‘wire center’ areas currently and on the right is the fiber optic deployment as told by Broadbandnow.

Thus, after 30 years, most of California is still based on copper wires, and whole areas of AT&T’s territories were never properly upgraded — causing the Digital Ditch.

The 5G Legislation and the FCC Policies are Drenched with ALEC.

This wireless legislation has been propagandizing America with disinformation for years.

A veto of these bills would go a long way to starting on the road to finally solve the Digital Divide.

The FCC’s current 5G plans have been based on a modified ALEC bill that was presented by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, with the help of AT&T Indiana, ALEC, and some Indiana politicians with ties to the industry.

We previously detailed the story:

“FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr went to Indianapolis, Indiana on September 4th, 2018 to announce the FCC’s new proposed 5G wireless regulations that are directly tied to “model legislation” most likely created by “ALEC”, the American Legislative Exchange Council. On the floor of the Indiana Senate statehouse, he was joined by the Hoosier politicians, (most, if not all, appear to be getting money from AT&T el al.).”

Ironically, AT&T Indiana, as well as Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin all had fiber optic plans in the 1990s and all claimed they would be serving rural areas.

As WTHR stated: (September 5, 2018)

“Commissioner Brandon Carr complimented Indiana lawmakers for changing laws that allow wireless providers to bring Indianapolis mobile speed data that’s 100 times faster than 4G.

“That makes Indianapolis, not New York, not San Francisco…that makes Indianapolis number one in the country for most intensive 5G investment.”

Thus, one reason to not sign this corporate gift legislation would be to start returning democracy to the public sector and not have AT&T, and their minions, including ALEC, in control of America and California’s future.

The second reason is — GET THE MONEY BACK and use it for what it was intended to do — bring a fiber optic future to California — already paid for, over and over, and not some vague, imaginary wireless future for home use.

AT&T admitted to investors that they were using the wireline — read utility budgets for wireless buildouts at a Wells Fargo investment meeting on June 21, 2016. Bill Smith states:

Now imagine halting these illegal cross-subsidies and using them to wire the entire state with fiber optics, as well as lower prices — all helping to finally stop the Digital Divide.

Second letter coming:

Dear Governor Newsom: Get the Money Back to Fix the Digital Divide.

Read more about our work in California



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.