John Stankey, CEO of AT&T.
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Telecommunications giant AT&T hired an ally of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to campaign for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
A lobbying registration report shows AT&T hired Jon Duffy, president of Rhode Island-based marketing firm Duffy & Shanley, in April. The document does not say whether he will stand up for congressional lawmakers or administrative officials.
Duffy co-chaired Raimondo’s transition team after she was first elected Governor of Rhode Island in 2014. Records show that Duffy had never signed up for the lobby until his most recent agreement with AT&T.
The lobbying report says AT&T has hired Duffy to focus on “issues related to broadband and the American employment plan”.
Biden’s $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal includes an investment of $ 100 billion to expand broadband access. The Senate Republicans’ latest counteroffer was $ 65 billion for broadband.
The lobbying for the infrastructure takes place at a crucial time for AT&T. The company this month announced a $ 43 billion deal to merge its WarnerMedia division with Discovery.
AT&T has spent just over $ 2.6 million on lobbying spending so far in 2021, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. AT&T lobbyists have partnered with the Commerce Department, the President’s Executive Office, and the Vice President’s Office, among others.
In response to questions about Duffy’s recruitment, AT&T told CNBC on Friday that part of its lobbying would be focused on working towards “an accessible, affordable and sustainable broadband connection”.
“During the pandemic, US networks fared much better than other countries,” said a company spokesman. “The country’s broadband networks have faced the challenge because of policies that have encouraged private sector investment in various technologies and networks. Americans pay less and get more.”
Duffy’s PR firm already lists AT&T as a customer on its website. Other corporate customers listed are Intel, Dunkin ‘Donuts, Hallmark and Staples. Duffy didn’t respond to a request for comment.
AT&T announced in April a $ 2 billion commitment to make broadband more affordable.
Raimondo was a strong proponent of investing in expanding broadband access.
“We need transformation investments in broadband to ensure that all Americans finally have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet services. During the pandemic, we saw that high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it is a necessity for jobs and education and health care,” Raimondo said at an April hearing before the Senate Funds Committee.
The Department of Commerce’s national telecommunications and information administration announced earlier this month a $ 288 million grant program for a wide-ranging broadband infrastructure.