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'Why Shouldn't They Participate?': AT&T CEO Calls on Big Tech to Help Subsidize Internet Access AT&T's CEO called out the seven biggest tech companies in the world.

By Sherin Shibu Edited by Melissa Malamut

Key Takeaways

  • The Universal Service Fund (USF) spends $8 billion a year to help Americans get affordable access to telecommunications services in rural and high-cost areas.
  • The fund takes a percentage of AT&T's revenues.
  • AT&T CEO John Stankey said on Monday that big tech companies should also contribute to the USF.

AT&T wants the seven biggest and most profitable tech companies, namely Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Tesla, to help subsidize Internet and telephone access in the U.S.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said on Monday at a telecoms forum that big tech companies should be required to contribute to the Universal Service Fund (USF), a federal program that spends $8 billion a year on phone, Internet, and other telecommunications services.

The fund supports lower-income customers, customers who live in rural areas, or those who reside in high-cost areas. It also brings internet and phone service to eligible schools and libraries.

"The seven largest and most profitable companies in the world built their franchises on the internet and the infrastructure we provide," Stankey said, per a Reuters report.

"Why shouldn't they participate in ensuring affordable and equitable access to the services of today that are just as indispensable as the phone lines of yesteryear?" he added.


John Stankey, AT&T CEO. Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As a telecommunications company operating in the U.S., AT&T is required to contribute to the USF.

The fund takes a percentage of AT&T's revenues, starting at 15.5%.

AT&T charges its customers a Universal Connectivity Charge based on the USF percentage — so at the end of the day, AT&T's customers pay an additional cost that goes towards the fund.

"In the competitive industry we are in, we cannot afford to absorb the costs associated with the USF that have been imposed on AT&T," a company webpage reads.

Related: AT&T CEO Reveals Cause of Mass Outage, Offers Account Credit

Stankey isn't the only AT&T executive to recently call attention to the USF fee. Earlier this month, AT&T executive vice president of federal regulatory relations Rhonda Johnson wrote that the company's USF contribution percentage was now 34.4% — and had remained at above 30% for the past four quarters.

Johnson wrote that Congress should expand the USF's sources of funding to "tech companies – like Meta and Google – that utilize consumer broadband connections."

These big tech companies have profited from having Americans online and should also contribute to a reformed fund, according to Johnson.

Related: AT&T Customer Data Leaked to 'Dark Web,' Millions Affected

Sherin Shibu

Entrepreneur Staff

News Reporter

Sherin Shibu is a business news reporter at Entrepreneur.com. She previously worked for PCMag, Business Insider, The Messenger, and ZDNET as a reporter and copyeditor. Her areas of coverage encompass tech, business, strategy, finance, and even space. She is a Columbia University graduate.

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