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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Picking-Up Teams For The Level-Playing Field

A Level Playing-Field for TeleComm, Suh! 
An Equal Opportunity for All and Sundry...

Inside the Major Political Fight for Broadband Internet That's Brewing Across America
Republicans are fighting hard against the idea of public networks.
By David Morris / AlterNet
March 9, 2015

...The decision arose from a petition to the FCC by Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina asking it to overturn state laws that prevent them from extending their highly successful publicly owned networks to surrounding communities eager to connect. The FCC’s decision affects just those two states’ laws but will undoubtedly become a precedent to evaluate most of the other 17 states’ restrictions on municipal broadband.

Republicans grumbled at the net neutrality decision but they positively shrieked their dismay when the FCC ruled in favor of local authority. Within hours of the vote Republicans introduced a bill stripping the FCC of its authority to do so. A year ago Republicans introduced a similar bill that would have prevented the FCC from even taking up the issue. That bill passed the House. Republicans voted 221-4 in favor. The bill died in the Senate.

The Economic Argument: Protecting Shareholders and Taxpayers

Republicans marshal both economic and political arguments in their case against public networks. The economic argument is simply put: By pre-empting local authority Republicans are protecting shareholders from unfair competition and taxpayers from unwise investments by local governments.

That municipal telecommunications networks have unfair advantages is a well-worn trope of telecom giants and Republicans. On the face of it, the proposition is preposterous. Does anyone truly believe that Salisbury, North Carolina whose public network at the time North Carolina passed its law had only 1,000 customers and whose municipal budget was only $34 million could have a competitive advantage over Time Warner, with 14 million customers and annual revenues of $18 billion?


Preposterous or not, Republicans and telecoms are sticking with the argument. Indeed North Carolina legislators unblushingly titled their bill the Level Playing Field/Local Gov't Competition Act.

In this debate about unfair competition private telecoms would like us to forget about the enormous subsidies gifted to them in the past. In 1991... Telephone companies enthusiastically applauded the Vice President’s vision and rushed to request permission of state regulatory commissions to boost prices and increase profits in order to generate the capital needed to rewire the country. Most promised to achieve the rewiring within 20 years. ..

State legislatures and regulatory commissions almost uniformly acquiesced, agreeing, in effect, to tax phone (and later cable) customers to finance a new privately built and owned state of the art telecommunications network...  by 2014 Americans were collectively charged about $400 billion by Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink. In the mid 1990s cable companies pushed their snouts into the public trough with an agreement called the Social Contract. Kushnick estimates that from 1996 to 2014 cable customers paid about $61 billion extra.
By now, if the telecom companies had kept their promises we might well have a national broadband network that would be the envy of the world. Instead many consider the United States a laggard in high speed, affordable broadband.
 That's what I like about Republicans.

There's always a free lunch... if you have the right ancestors, or if you know the right people.


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