AT&T’s Stephenson: Trump ‘Focused’

AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said he was encouraged by his recent meeting with President Donald Trump, adding that the nation’s chief executive was “focused” and if his tax reform plans take hold could accelerate business growth.

Stephenson met with Trump at his New York City residence in Trump Tower on Jan. 12, a meeting that many speculated was damage control from the AT&T executive. The day before the meeting CNN – the property of Time Warner Inc., which AT&T is trying to buy for $108.7 billion – incited the President’s ire after the news network reported of possible damaging information the Russians may have on the leader of the free world.

Stephenson said his talk with Trump centered on economic policy, an in particular tax reform.

“I was impressed,” Stephenson said. “I was meeting with a CEO, that was obvious. The President has a very specific agenda in terms of what he thought was critical, and that was tax reform and regulatory reform. We spoke at length about each of those. I will tell you, the President is focused on these. I left with a degree of optimism that this could actually be pulled off this year.”

Trump has mentioned plans to reduce corporate taxes, which Stephenson said was likely to happen. Stephenson wouldn’t say specifically what those reforms would allow AT&T to do differently or better, but hinted it could allow the company to expand the buildout of high-speed fiber optic Internet access to 12.5 million homes that was a condition of its $48.5 billion merger with DirecTV.

“ Would we accelerate the 12.5 [million homes]? I think we would try to look if we could bring some of those forward,” Stephenson said when asked if tax reform would allow him to accelerate the 12.5-milion –home buildout. “We are in the process of deploying 40 MHz of [wireless] spectrum. Are there some things we would do to bring forward some of the wireless build and bring our mobile speeds up considerably? …There’s a long list of things that the business case is really good where you could accelerate some of your build requirement and accelerate some of the business cases on many of these.”