Even before the pandemic, rural broadband had become a simmering political issue, an acute example of being left behind which some Democrats were using to prise rural voters away from President Donald Trump. It is a subject that resonates from congressional districts in upstate New York to presidential swing states such as Iowa. With the virus spreading rapidly beyond cities into rural counties, poor access to broadband has exploded into a major Congressional row, as politicians tussle over billions of dollars’ worth of stimulus money.
US technology companies have rebuffed a Trump administration request that they pledge to stop sourcing supplies from some Chinese companies, amid concerns that such a policy could break competition laws. The state department asked telecoms carriers and chipmakers to sign up to a set of principles which would have in effect shut out Huawei, and possibly others, according to three people briefed on the proposals.
Donald Trump’s push to roll out 5G internet as quickly as possible has sparked a series of disputes over who should get access to parts of the telecoms spectrum, involving groups as large and varied as Facebook, Google, AT&T and National Public Radio. The Federal Communications Commission has pushed forward with a string of spectrum sales in the past few months as it rushes to fulfil the US president’s pledge to “win the race” to establish superfast internet across the country.
Google has warned the Trump Administration it risks compromising US national security if it pushes ahead with sweeping export restrictions on Huawei, as the technology group seeks to continue doing business with the blacklisted Chinese company. Senior executives at Google are pushing US officials to exempt it from a ban on exports to Huawei without a licence approved by Washington. Google is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei’s smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software.
Organisations run by Charles Koch have begun to lobby US politicians on data privacy, as the American billionaire and conservative donor deepens his unlikely alliance with Silicon Valley, and Google in particular.
The big four US broadband companies invested less in capital projects in 2018 than they did in 2017, undermining one of the rationales for a controversial decision by the Trump administration to remove net neutrality protections. Earnings reported recently show Verizon, AT&T, Charter Communications and Comcast collectively undertook slightly less capital spending in 2018 than in 2017, the first time there has been a drop in three years. They spent $56.9 billion in 2018, compared with $57.1 billion the previous year and $56.1 billion in 2016.