Thursday, August 28, 2014

How big telecom smothers city-run broadband | Center for Public Integrity

How big telecom smothers city-run broadband | Center for Public Integrity: “We don’t quarrel with the fact that AT&T has shareholders that it has to answer to,” Bowling said with a drawl while sitting in the spacious wood-paneled den of her log-cabin-style home. “That’s fine, and I believe in capitalism and the free market. But when they won’t come in, then Tennesseans have an obligation to do it themselves.” 

Republican Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling puts this debate over the role of the public sector in financing or building telecommunications infrastructure into the proper perspective. It's not a contest over capitalism or any other economic philosophy. It's about the hard reality that markets aren't perfect and can and do fail. When that market is for a service like telecommunications that plays such a central role in the health of the economy as a whole, public sector involvement is entirely appropriate and the interests of a single sector of the economy must take a subordinate position.

At a meeting three weeks after Bowling introduced Senate Bill 2562, the state’s three largest telecommunications companies — AT&T, Charter, and Comcast Corp. — tried to convince Republican leaders to relegate the measure to so-called “summer study,” a black hole that effectively kills a bill. Bowling, described as “feisty” by her constituents, initially beat back the effort and thought she’d get a vote.

That’s when Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T’s Tennessee operations, leaned toward her across the table in a conference room next to the House caucus leader’s office and said tersely, “Well, I’d hate for this to end up in litigation,” Bowling recalls.

Actually, no. Legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies love litigation because it fits perfectly with their strategy of buying time and years of delay since they are unable to invest sufficient funds to upgrade their monopolistic and dupolistic telecommunications markets due the limitations of their business models.

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