November 11, 2007
By Cynthia Laitman
Except for the heroic minority who voted “no” (Sens. Risser, Carpenter, Erpenbach, Jauch, Kreitlow, Lassa, Miller, Robson and Vinehout), the state Senate reached a new low in its disregard for the public interest by rushing to approve the corporate-backed cable bill. Promoted by AT&T and its industry allies, this bill guarantees decreased competition and higher prices for consumers -- the opposite of what its backers have so disingenuously claimed.
Far from lowering prices, we know from the experience of other states in which the same legislation passed that prices have steadily risen and that consumers who have not had a choice of provider before the bill’s passage are unlikely to have competition afterward. Furthermore, the bill will most certainly necessitate local tax increases because of significant cuts in local revenue.
These are just a few of the more obvious flaws in this atrocious bill, written by the telecommunications and cable industries for the benefit of their stockholders.
However, the final poison pill is the bill’s condition that franchises are awarded “forever,” and that current franchise holders will now have the right to sell, barter, or give away those franchises to anyone, anywhere in the world, and the state of Wisconsin will be prohibited from objecting. Will the legislators who voted for this shameful bill feel quite as enthusiastic when video and broadband services for Wisconsin’s towns and cities are sold to companies or individuals in, say, China or India or the Middle East?
When consumers realize they’ve been sold out, there will be a political price to pay for those legislators who have so carelessly given away our broadband future to private industry. Unless Governor Doyle vetoes at least the worst of this bill, it will be too late for the people of Wisconsin.
(Cynthia Laitman it the director of TeleTruth Wisconsin.)
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