Friday, March 23, 2007

Newspaper stories suggest AT&T contributions to Schwarzenegger committees linked to AB 2987

The Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee published stories this week suggesting that Ma Bell lavished love on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the tune of $540,000 for the governor's approval last fall of AB 2987, the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act.

The Times reported AT&T gave a cool half million dollars to Schwarzenegger's
After-School All-Stars, a tax-exempt group founded by Schwarzenegger in the early 1990s to provide tutoring, recreation and other programs to poor children.

The Bee reported today in a page one story that eight high level AT&T executives gave $5,000 each to Schwarzenegger's reelection campaign committee in recent weeks.

Both stories contained strenuous denials from the governor's office and AT&T that the cash contributions had anything to do with Schwarzenegger's signature on AB 2987 last October.

The stories put the donations in the context of AB 2987's allowing AT&T to provide television programming and bypassing local governments by putting the California Public Utilities Commission in charge of issuing video franchises. It should be noted however that the cable TV industry also supported AB 2987.

The real issue isn't AT&T's ability to sell television programming since its aged copper cable-based infrastructure cannot reliably transmit Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) service to the vast majority of California households and won't be able to anytime soon. Rather, it's AB 2987's limited build out requirements that allow the telco/cable duopoly to leave vast areas of the state -- ironically many of them inland counties inhabited by Schwarzenegger's fellow Republicans -- without any broadband services whatsoever.

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