Thursday, January 05, 2006

Anti-Muni laws? An Indiana Take

Just the tonic I needed to make me smile a little after the reversal in appeals court. Harold Feld serves out a slashing review of the anti-muni broadband coalition and the pets of the incumbents that do their bidding in state legislatures.

Bits to bring a smile and stir the spirit:
To review: when last we left the state of Indiana, SBC had tried to use a pet Representative to introduce a stand alone bill effective barring muni broadband. To their surprise, it didn't get out of subcommittee, as lots of folks from rural areas and less desirable markets explained that if the law passed, they could not expect to see affordable broadband anytime soon. Without broadband, their economies stagnated and died. We closed with democracy triumphant. Repeat in 2005 in about a dozen other states.

But, like Jason, Chucky, or Jar-Jar Binks, the telco lobbyists and their wholly owned subsidiaries in the state legislature keep comming back for endless sequels. Once again, the forces of corporate welfare have learned from their previous mistakes and have unvieled their new tactic — trying to sneak these provisions through as part of larger telecom reform bills...

Unfortunately, according to this article, Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels shares Mr. Hersham's hate of local governments and love of corporate subsidies. According to the Governor, it is “bad” to spend public money to provide public services, but “good” to provide public money or other valuable benefits (like publically funded low interest loans or building conduits in public roads for private companies at state expense).

Color me stupid, but I don't get it. If this is about how the wonderfulness of capitalism and the American way should not be sullied by the foul taint of state socialism, then why provide public subsidies to billion dollar private companies with access to capital markets and other forms of financing? If this is about providing a needed service to the public, then why not let local governments determine how best to deliver it? Local governments do a good job on such complicated and messy issues as sewers, electricity, public transportation, etc. etc...

I confess I grow suspicious when the only role reserved for government is to shut up and transfer public money to private companies, particularly monopolies deregulated in the name of “free enterprise” and “competition.” But I suppose I can't blame these companies for trying. AT&T exists to maximize its revenue, and sucking down subsidies while surpressing competition certainly does that.

But I can blame the Hon. Brandt Hershman. People elect him to watch out for their interests, not transfer public money to AT&T and other incumbents. Hopefully the people will rise again, as they did last year, to remind their elected officials of this. Perhaps this time it will stick.
There's a little special Hoosier flavor in the text you won't want to miss but the bit about blaming our legislators---Hell yes...blame them and hold them accountable. We need legislators to sign on NOW to a repeal pledge.

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