President Obama is out to destroy Sirius XM Radio
He won't say that, of course. He very likely doesn't know that he has such machinations. Rather, he has a plan to increase broadband Internet access, at a cost of $7.2 billion, according to the text of the $787 billion stimulus plan.
That, Fool, is seriously bad news for Sirius XM. Here's why.
Gloomy tidings for Sirius XM
First, let's talk about the stimulus plan. The bill has set aside $7.2 billion to expand broadband Internet access nationally, but to rural areas especially. Among those expected to benefit are local carriers who operate in more remote areas of the country, including CenturyTel, Windstream
What's missing from the media coverage of this expansion is any discussion of the broader mandate and what it might mean. "As a country, we have ensured that every American has access to telephone service and electricity, regardless of economic status, and I will do likewise for broadband Internet access," candidate Obama said.
Think of the implications of that logic. Rural connectivity is tough to achieve under any circumstances -- ask Congress why it pushed back the deadline for converting to digital TV -- but it's nearly impossible to achieve via typical wireline technology. Obama must expect the bulk of the $7.2 billion to be spent on wireless connectivity, perhaps including emerging innovations such as WiMAX and its in-development peer, Long-Term Evolution (LTE).
And that stinks for Sirius XM. Surely content is a key advantage of Sirius XM, but so is its omnipresent service. Go anywhere and your programming, broadcast from space, goes with you. What happens when WiMAX and LTE make such connectivity irrelevant? When great programming is available anywhere you have a connection to the Web?
That day is coming. WiMAX and LTE are what you might call fourth-generation, or 4G, networks. Definitions for "4G" vary, but to me, it's a convergent network that uses the Internet to deliver voice, data, and streamed media at very high speeds, wirelessly.
Thus, 4G could describe both WiMAX and LTE. And both technologies will leverage at least a portion of the infrastructure we've already built nationally for wireless telephony. Sprint Nextel
His conclusion? "While someone else drove me around Baltimore's Fells Point neighborhood, I was able to watch Hulu.com's broadcast-quality video with no freezes or pauses to wait for data," Wildstrom wrote. Talk about impressive.
More bad news
Clearwire also has backing from Google
The rub? There's no shortage of consumers for these stimulus funds. Everyone's hungry, and deep-pocketed investors want to see a national rollout of wireless broadband as soon as possible. They want what the president wants.
Now consider Sirius XM. The carrying cost of its property and equipment -- the bulk of which is tied up in space junk -- was $1.38 billion before $573 million in accumulated depreciation as of the end of 2007. (The company has yet to file a 10-K annual report for 2008.)
Today, investors value Sirius XM at roughly $450 million. Assuming that's due to its deals with Howard Stern and other premium content providers, Sirius XM's satellites, once worthy of taking on billions in debt, are now worth less than zero.
And why not? Obama is spending billions to make sure that we won't need them.