Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Consumer advocates criticize Japan junket by AT&T, California regulators

The Sacramento Bee published a page one story today reporting consumer groups that watchdog utility companies are raising eyebrows over a week long junket to Tokyo by energy and telecom executives accompanied by California Public Utilities Commission officials and the chairs of legislative committees that oversee the two industries. Kenneth McNeely, president of AT&T California, is among those reported on the week long trip.

The trip is being paid for by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, a nonprofit that isn't required to disclose its donations and is run by executives including those of California's major telecommunications and energy companies.

While the consumer groups rightly raise ethical concerns the Japanese junket appears too cozy for comfort with regulators and the regulated likely toasting with shots of sake, there is a potential positive upside. The visiting officials and execs will see first hand that Japan's broadband telecommunications infrastructure is light years ahead of California's. That will drive home how shameful it is that the state that once claimed to be an information technology leader is loaded with broadband black holes where residents continue to be relegated to early 1990s dial up Internet access.

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