Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Consumers Union telecom project: hearusnow.org

The fight here in Lafayette is a part of the larger story of a telecom industry gone increasingly awry. The citizens of Lafayette are not the only Americans to have reason to distrust companies like Cox and BellSouth.

A sign of how serious the problem has become is that Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of the ad-free Consumer Reports, has launched a new project, hearusnow.org, aimed at helping consumers understand their choices--and more significantly, helping them learn how to fight for a fairer economic balance between consumers and the increasingly powerful telecom giants.

This is a model site, well designed, easy to navigate, and above all rich in useful information. Such sites are hard to review--they are too rich for a simple review to do them justice. One way to help readers of this blog to get a sense of its power is to link down to some good content from the top in hopes of introducing the site instead of "telling about" it.

In that spirit try this:

Head on over to hearusnow.org take a look around, get a sense of the breadth of telecom issues covered (from Internet & Broadband, to TV, Radio & Cable to Digital Content on the navigation bar). Not issue but activity oriented? Try Get Heard, Get Involved, and Get Help sections. Got a sense of the choices?

Click on Internet & Broadband and admire the interface consistency for a moment. Then try the story from the center aisle: Issue Alert :: It's Only Fair: All Americans Should Have Access to the Internet. Give it a read; its worth it. Here's a teaser from down it the story:
The primary cause of the digital divide is that consumers pay inflated prices for the basic services needed to connect to the high-speed Internet. In fact, U.S. consumers pay more than consumers in other parts of the world for broadband, and generally experience lower service quality (in the form of slower speeds). For example, Americans pay ten to twenty times as much as consumers in Korea and Japan for broadband, and the U.S. has fallen from third to thirteenth in the world in the percentage of citizens with broadband service.
The telecom giants in our country aren't tending to their job. What we've noticed locally is true across this country: we are being charged far too much for far too little. It can be done a lot better. If the teleco's won't do a good job we can do it for ourselves.

Run on down the bottom of the page and take a look a the nifty graphs. One may surprise those among us who haven't been doing the research: Drawn from a federal study with an obscenly obscure name it demonstrates something that the cablecos would just as soon you didn't know: that contrary to their propoganda satellite TV has not proved to be an effective restraint on the steadily increasing charges of monopoly cable companies like Cox. (This little fact is lying around anywhere the research can be found; this is far from the only study.) Nope, monopoly pricing really does flow from cable's monopoly coax network, just like your economics teacher would have insisted.

Outraged? I don't blame you. Me too. Scroll back up to the top of the page and click on "Get Involved" in the right hand column. There's lots of neat things to do on that page but let's say you are attracted to "Share Your Story" because you're miffed about incumbent disinfo in Lafayette. Et voila: there you are--in a place where you can tell the world Lafayette's story.

Neat eh? That is one of many routes you can take. It is a rich site.

Lagniappe: thought that was all, eh? No. Any site so comprehensive couldn't miss Lafayette's story. Consumer Union thinks we have a point too: "BellSouth puts pressure on small town."

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