The $90 billion gardening bill was a deal killer. Intel corp. Executive Vice-President Sean M. Maloney sat in stunned silence after a telephone company executive told him it would cost $1,100 per home just to replace landscaping and sidewalks if the industry installed fiber-optic cabling and brought superfast broadband Internet access to every single-family home in America.
This was in 2002, during a secret meeting organized by Maloney at a hotel near Intel's Silicon Valley headquarters. He had offered a handful of telecom executives Intel's help in paying for the massive fiber-laying project. Sales growth for Intel's microprocessors had flattened during the tech slowdown, and Intel was hoping wide broadband adoption by consumers would goose demand for new PCs with the company's most powerful chips in them. Maloney was willing to help get things started. Then they shocked him with the price tag: $300 a foot for gear and installation, and a gardening bill on top of that. That seemed like an insurmountable hurdle to Maloney and his companions.