After the Washington Post ran a story about how both Verizon and AT&T tripped over themselves to put up cell towers at John McCain's Arizona ranch to patch up his crappy reception, Verizon came out huffing with remarkable speed that it "was wrong," and they just put those towers up because the Secret Service said so and they had to, not because it was John McCain and he's more specialerer than you. However, the Atlantic's Joshua Green lays out why Verizon's denial doesn't quite add up.
Yes, the temporary towers currently in place are response to a Secret Service request, though notably Service spokesman Eric Zahren told the Post in the original story that "this was something that was being addressed before we were out there," and that they could have used existing mobile coverage in the area. The critical point, though, is that before the Secret Service tower happened, as Green notes, "whatever its motivation, Verizon plainly went to considerable effort and expense to pursue building a permanent tower on the McCains' ranch," per Cindy McCain's original efforts, and it was "long underway until just recently."
The 200-page environmental assessment alone was an ordeal, with Verizon hiring consultants, sub-contractors, archaeologists and contacting over a dozen Indian tribes, not to mention all of the appropriate government agencies. It's clear Verizon went through a lot of trouble here.
So whether or not the McCains wanted special treatment, it looks like they got it—even Verizon's map of the sparse area (above) clearly denotes "McCain's cabin," so they definitely knew who it was for. And if the permanent tower "made no business sense," as Verizon spokesman Jeff Nelson put it, why did they go through all of that trouble in the first place? Wouldn't they have known how desolate it was before pouring lots of money and time into a bunch of regulatory crap? I guess that's one of the perks of having power—you don't have to ask for favours, you just get them.
Update: AT&T's official story on their tower at the McCain ranch is that they're giving "temporary accommodations to AT&T customers involved in or covering the campaign of a presidential nominee," which seems more on the up and up than Verizon's story. [The Atlantic]
P.S. If you have evidence T-Mobile put a tower on top of Obama's house, let us know.