March 30, 2005

Whining Telcos

We previously highlighted the op-ed by Frank Rizzo, which parroted the tired arguments the telcos are making to attack community Internet.

Meanwhile, over in the San Jose Mercury News, Miguel Helft is asking the questions all of us wonder about: if UPS and Fed Ex can compete against a quasi-public postal service without whining, why can't the telcos? And isn't it disingenuous for a telco to complain about municipalities investing in critical communications infrastructure, when it turns around and accepts millions of municipal dollars in Universal Service Funds?

Mr. Helft frames the problem as special interests trumping public good:

Last time I checked, broadband deployment was a bipartisan national priority. Talk to business and political leaders in Washington, Sacramento or Silicon Valley, and they'll tell you that being pro-broadband is every bit as American as apple pie. Whenever someone decries America's status as a broadband laggard -- the United States has slipped from 11th to 13th in per-capita broadband connections in the past year -- heads shake in dismay.

It seems that the dollars well-connected telephone companies are willing to lavish on state legislators can trump all that.

He thinks little of the attack they've mounted on community Internet:

The telcos are good at whining. It is unfair to force them to compete with government entities, which can issue low-interest bonds to finance their broadband projects, they claim. It's as if FedEx and UPS complained every time the post office bought a new truck with taxpayer dollars. It's unfair to force them to compete with entities that can tax them. Yet somehow the telcos don't complain when they receive government subsidies or tax breaks their competitors don't have access to.

Mr. Helft concludes that the decision on what a municipality should do should be left to the citizens. He also sees a role for the tech industry to encourage more broadband choice. That's dead on, and why the anti-muni provisions of HB 789 are bad.

Read the entire article. (registration required)

Posted by chip at March 30, 2005 08:26 PM