“Local governments: FCC not playing fair”

BusinessWeek (yes, Business Week!) carries a story that at least admits that local governments have reason to be peeved at the tag team game being played on them by the FCC and the big phone companies. It’s germane to yesterday’s call to write Senator Vitter about corporate attempts to federalize the video franchise issue. Take a look for as good a background on the story as I’ve yet seen in the mainstream media.

Why should you care? To repeat a bit from yesterday’s post: “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.”

A taste of the BusinessWeek article:

…opponents of the FCC’s action say the new rules amount to a “federalization” of the cable franchising process. They contend the change will mean a loss of local oversight, fewer dollars for public and government access channels and the possibility of “cherry picking” by companies that choose to serve only the richest neighborhoods.

Much of the article is occupied tracing out a Florida local franchise negotiation used by the FCC to (unfairly) tar local communities as making outlandish demands. Local communities have reacted with outrage to such reports, claiming that the FCC uncritically accepts what are at best decptive claims by the corporations while ignoring contrary evidence from local communities. While the reporter fastidiously avoids drawing its moral the retelling of the story makes it clear that, in that case at least, the FCC accepted and promoted a lie when it confidently asseted that a demand to provide “math lesson” had been made of Verizon. No “demand” that the phone company supply math lessons was ever made. A video setup for recording such was in a list of possible benefits from the contract. Interpreting a state-required “wish list” as a demand merely indicates that phone company doesn’t competently understand what Florida law requires in local franchise negotiations. No (video cameras for) math lessons were ever mentioned during actual negotiations. The Verizion report that such a demand was made was at best incompetent and misleading. The FCC chair’s repetition of it is, at best, willfully ignorant. (When asked whether they check such stuff the answer was “No” followed by excuses.) And the Verizon representative’s willingness to affirm the FCC’s mistake is craven.

This sort of confident, self-congratulatory, mutual backscratching between regulators and the regulated at the expense of local communities is precisely why you don’t want to Federalize local matters.

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