It’s always good to first talk about where you agree with someone before discussing the areas of disagreement. In that spirit we respond to the recent blog post by Susan Crawford. There is one point that we can agree — more spectrum is needed to avoid the looming crisis that the wireless broadband industry is facing. Kudos to the FCC for moving this problem to the front of its very full agenda. The solutions won’t be simple, but the resolution will matter to the millions of Americans who now depend on their wireless devices and millions more who will in the future.
While we see eye to eye on the need to identify more spectrum for wireless broadband, we have to question Crawford’s disapproving comments about our capital investments. In 2008, we invested more than any other publicly traded company in America and more than any other publicly traded global telecommunications company. Period. It’s baffling that she is criticizing us for not investing even more, or faster. We all should appreciate the risks any investor incurs in uncertain times…and these times are financially more difficult than most of us can recall in our lifetime.
It’s just natural that investment would go down somewhat during the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. But to label this as “disinvestment” is a major overstatement. AT&T still invested $20.3 billion in 2008 — again, according to Bloomberg that’s more than any other US company.Overall, it may be unfair to make too much of it, but to cite an “investment study” by a group like Free Press, which has zero experience in investment, is kinda ridiculous. And to criticize company dividends in a down economy shows a lack of understanding about the role of dividends for everyday Americans and the economy. Like a rising stock price, dividends also help attract investors — and more investors help a companies’ ability to invest.
It’s a cycle that works so let’s take a breath. The sky isn’t falling and we don’t need to eliminate dividends like in Japan. But we can work together to ensure that American businesses are healthy, investing, creating jobs and offering adequate dividends to its shareowners. I hope that’s something on which we can all agree.