AT&T and Comcast, like nearly every other company in the US, are walking on eggshells ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration later this week. Both have attracted the president elect's ire; AT&T for its plan to acquire Time Warner, which owns Trump's most-hated news network CNN, and Comcast because it owns NBC, home to Saturday Night Live and the company that fired Trump for derogatory comments on immigrants in 2015.
However, just because there's some antagonism to work through doesn't mean both companies aren't ready to do their part as a flood of visitors gets set to descend on Washington DC.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) first reported earlier this month that it will boost LTE capacity around DC by 400% in advance of the inauguration, a project that's been in the works for more than two years. The investment includes installing seven Super Cell on Wheels (COWs) along the National Mall, adding or upgrading 20 Distributed Antenna Systems (DASs) at venues including hotels and airports, upgrading 20 cell sites and building a new 4G LTE tower.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that AT&T has also made a monetary contribution to the inaugural festivities.
Comcast's activities around the inauguration are more understated than AT&T's. The cable operator says it is opening up 6,800 WiFi hotspots in the area for free Internet access between now and January 26. The move follows a similar effort by Comcast during the Pope's visit in 2015 and during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016.
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Notably, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) makes clear that the free WiFi isn't only intended for inauguration attendees. The company says in a statement that it is "helping to connect Washington, DC residents and visitors as more than one million people are expected to arrive in our nation’s capital for inauguration and surrounding events."
While not explicitly stated, surrounding events include the Women's March on Washington scheduled for this Saturday, a civil rights protest with a heavily anti-Trump slant that is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to the capital region.
The upshot? Visitors both for and against Trump should have ample connectivity to amplify their online communications later this week.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading