Michael Powell Sticks It To Consumers On the Way Out the Door

There are three certainties in life: 1) death; 2) taxes; and 3) that the FCC under Michael Powell will favor incumbents over consumers every time out the chute.

Case in point, the latest ruling of the Powell tenure.

The Washington Post reports that, in a 3-2 vote on Friday, the Powell FCC ruled that states cannot require the Regional Bell Operating Companies (that would be BellSouth, here) to offer a broadband DSL connection without making consumers also pay for a phone line.

No doubt, we’ll be hearing a great deal about “unfair competitive advantages” from Cox and BellSouth in the coming months of the community discussion about the LUS fiber to the premises project. When you do hear that, consider this summation of the impact of this ruling:

The ruling effectively gives BellSouth and other regional giants an advantage over competitors trying to sell alternative phone service.

The Post reports that BellSouth first sought this ruling back in 2003.

This is another installment of the anti-competitive war that BellSouth, the other RBOCs and the cable companies have waged since passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. They have fought every attempt to force them to open their networks — the vast majority of which were built when the companies were regulated monopolies — and that resistance to competition has been aided and abetted by the Powell-led FCC.

That suppression of competition has resulted in less choice and higher costs for business and household customers of these incumbent carriers. At the same time this suppression of competition has taken place, levels of broadband usage in the United States have fallen to 15th in the world. We are being passed by other countries because providers here will not make the timely network investments necessary to deliver modern, Internet Protocol-based, networks where and when they are needed — here and now!

There is a connection between the anti-competitive practices of the Bells (and the cable companies), the regulatory decisions of the FCC, and the precipitous drop of this country as a leader in the usage of broadband connectivity — even by the ludicrous standard used to measure “broadband” which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 kilobits per second.

The vote on the LUS fiber project will be a vote on whether we accept the status quo or choose to invest in ourselves and our community to deliver a new vision of Lafayette in the 21st century. Who benefits from maintaining the status quo? BellSouth and Cox. With friends like these, who needs enemies?