AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) finished one-two atop a list of "Investment Heroes" compiled by economist Diana Carew and chief economist Michael Mandel for the Progressive Policy Institute, an independent research institution with the mission to "define and promote new progressive politics in the 21st century.
The two Tier 1 carriers, along with 23 others, were called out because they are "still investing domestically in buildings, equipment and software," a PPI July report states.
Sprint (NYSE: S), in 16th place, was also cited on the top 25 list along with Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) at number 8 and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) at number 19 among service providers. Google and Apple were at the bottom of the list, at 24 and 25 respectively—but, importantly, still in the top 25 of a list of 150 companies plucked from the Fortune 150.
PPI developed the list using publicly available financial reports and said it found that half of the leading companies are either telecom or energy-related.
"The fact that telecom and energy companies find it the most financially worthwhile to invest large volumes in America is quite telling about which sectors are doing well," the report stated. "Telecom companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are making huge investments in broadband infrastructure."
Even while calling the telecoms and other companies in the top 25 "heroes," the report made it clear that they were not necessarily on the steps of sainthood.
"We acknowledge that many of the companies on our list have been criticized for a wide variety of issues, including broadband pricing," the report stated. "But without minimizing these potential problems, we don't want to discount the positive impact these companies are having in terms of creating U.S. jobs and generating economic growth through their U.S. investments."
The telco investments also provided a good example of "spillover benefits," the report continued.
"By using the infrastructure developed and maintained by telecom companies, companies that develop software applications for smart devices along with companies that provide Internet services—like Facebook and Twitter—are able to innovate and get those innovations to consumers quickly. Because of the broadband networks in place these non-telecom companies are able to expand their businesses and service offerings," the report said.
Since it is a public policy organization, PPI also included some public policy recommendations in the report.
"Politicians and policymakers must do their part to encourage more investment success stories," the report said. "The sluggish recovery in domestic business spending shows there is still room to grow. This means designing policies aimed at encouraging new investment, including tax incentives."
- read the report (.pdf)
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