May 12, 2007
The way the game is played
By Bill Kraus
What AT&T offered the residents of Wisconsin is cable TV competition. This would seem to be a slam dunk. Most cable customers are rightly unhappy about the service they get from their designated provider. All cable customers are unhappy about the ever rising price of the service and the monopoly status enjoyed by their designated provider.
There was, however, one small catch. To make what AT&T offered available everywhere and expeditiously they proposed statewide instead of local regulation of the cable TV business.
The cities that have granted the cable franchises and negotiated more or less generous fees for the privilege would be cut out of the loop. The fees, which pay for local public service channels among other things, would disappear either immediately or over time, the cities’ advocates claimed.
The sponsoring legislators and the 80 legislators who signed on to the re-regulation bill did not seem to think this was a significant price to pay for the promised lower rates and better service which their constituents valued above what the cities themselves valued.
The AT&T bill was on the fast track.
It suffered a delay or a derailment when it came to light that to make sure it stayed on the fast track AT&T was advised to hire 16 (count ‘em 16) lobbyists and to make several significant contributions to the campaigns of the leaders’ campaign committees and to the governor as well.
So the bill is now on its way to the Joint Finance Committee because someone[s] got cold feet and listened to the cities that pointed out that state regulation meant the state would have to handle the complaints now being handled by the cities, and this would cost something.
The issue is no longer about the merits of the proposal. The issue is about the money, which is a legitimate issue, and the lobbyists, which isn’t.
The sad part of the story is that Wisconsin has come to this not so pretty pass.
Is AT&T the culprit? I don’t think so. To paraphrase something the Clinton campaign taught us 18 years ago: It’s the system, stupid.
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