Monday, January 29, 2007

Action Item: Vitter, the FCC, and Video Franchising

Lafayette folks and sympathizers; here's an opportunity to engage in a little responsible citizenship by writing Congress. The FCC is slated to get a grilling from the Senate Commerce Committee this Thursday and Louisiana has a Senator, Vitter, that sits on the committee. Write him; tell him you want real questions asked; tell him you'd rather see him and his colleagues set public policy instead of the bureaucrats at the FCC (and that in ANY case you'll hold him responsible--no buck-passing to shadowy bureaucrats).

While LPF is a proudly local blog, some issues that effect us are inescapably national--and some are decidedly not national but are in danger of being nationalized. The video franchise "issue" is one such issue. We've covered this ad infinitum (e.g.: 1, 2, 3) on this blog so I'll be mercifully brief today: this is a local issue--at its root, self-serving rationales scraped aside and ignored, there is one basic story: large corporations like AT&T/BellSouth want to enlist the power of the national government (and failing that the states) to seize the value of local ownership of rights of way and force these local owners (YOU) to give the use of that property to the incumbent telecomm corporations on terms dictated by those corporations. At stake for you: millions of dollars in local revenues, access to truly local channels like AOC, protection against your neighborhood being "redlined" out of new technologies if it's not rich enough, and the principle of local control of locally-owned resources.

It is dead easy to be against this usurption and so-called conservatives like Vitter ought to be in the forefront. He, like too many national Republicans, hasn't had to choose between the principles he claims to be committed to and the immense corporate support the telecomm industry throws their way. What's missing in this equation is YOU. Call him on it. Telecomm policy at the national level is rapidly evolving into a partisan issue and it need not and should not be that way. National competitiveness, Local Control of local resources, and responsible oversight of semi-monopoly industries have historically been at least as strongly supported by Republicans as Democrats. But without the public calling them to task the temptation to take the money and ignore the issue -- and the principles involved -- is apparently too hard to resist.

If you're interested here is a little context for the hearing: The FCC is chartered to protect the consumer and to responsibly manage the use of the public airwaves. It has turned into a bureau that has ceded property rights to mere license holders and has abandoned princples like "equal time" and the idea that licenses are granted not for money alone but for the promise that the holder will serve the public good. Congress needs to demand that the FCC reassert public ownership of the public airwaves. Congress needs to reassert itself as well as the body that makes public policy. Congresscritters should be outraged (and some are) that the FCC has taken it upon itself to put forth a rule about a national video franchise that Congress itself could not pass when telecomm's allies were in the majority.

The last time I saw hearings on the video franchise issue Vitter sat silently. We need to encourage him to ask real questions. And to be willing to vote in our favor.

You can piggyback on SaveAccess' tools to express yourself, or, arguably more usefully, do it yourself by getting in touch as a constituent:

David Vitter
202-224-4623
Email Form

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