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The Utter Corruption of the US Telecom Industry

ph2005053101613.jpg[Left, that’s crime boss Randall L. Stephenson, CEO of AT&T]

Monday I shared a train ride with Jane. She was headed to New York to make an appearance on a panel at NYU, and I was headed to Philly on business.

We talked and worked, though Jane was hampered by the failure of her Verizon mobile wireless service to connect her online. Why? Because, though she had been told her bill would be bundled with her cellphone service at the time she purchased the additional wireless service, they didn’t do it, so her autopay system did not pay her wireless bill. Result? No service. Further result? An hour of senseless haggling, time on hold, and so forth with a “customer service” representative who researched the problem and then insisted on charging Jane a reconnection fee. . . for Verizon’s mistake!

Everyone I know has stories like this. My AT&T wireless charges me out the wazoo and drops my calls with demonic frequency. Meanwhile, it seems Comcast, Verizon and AT&T garner an ever growing proportion of my monthly payments while providing me with less and less service.

If we had been on a train in Europe, not only would we have gotten to our destinations faster, but we would have had free wireless with no hassle. The reason the telecom industry is so bad is because it has bought congress, written anti-competitive, anti-consumer regulations into law, so that its services get worse and worse while it places itself on precisely the business path to destruction the US auto industry has already trod.

It lies to consumers on an individual level, as Jane experienced, and more broadly, launches dishonest anti-net neutrality campaigns and seeks to absolve itself from its participation in illegal surveillance of US citizens. Oh, and it tries to destroy free speech, thank you very much. The more it builds its business model around anti-competitive, anti-consumer corporate welfare and lies, the more it must cling to protectionist, anti-innovation strategies just to survive, systemically cutting the knees out from small businesses and innovative startups. It’s a slow, steady slog toward business death. Just ask Ford how that works out.

What’s more, the rumor is the Senate version of the new FISA bill, with the blessing of Harry Reid and the Democrats, will include retroactive immunity for the telecoms for their lawbreaking. We’ve been fighting today to prop up the House progressives to fight for a better version of the FISA bill in the House, but we also need to let Harry Reid and the rest of the capitulation caucus in the Senate know that retroactive immunity is purely unacceptable during the next few days.

Gee, are there any Democratic senators who might consider launching a filibuster on the Senate FISA bill, even against the will of the leadership, like maybe, anyone from a state that likes cheese, or a senator who guest blogs at or anyone running for president who asserts he’s truly committed to the Constitution?

What are your telecom nightmare stories? Share them in the comments.

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Pachacutec did not, as is commonly believed, die in 1471. To escape the tragic sight of his successors screwing up the Inca Empire he’d built, he fled east into the Amazon rain forest, where he began chewing lots of funky roots to get higher than Hunter Thompson ever dared. Oddly, these roots gave him not only a killer buzz, but also prolonged his life beyond what any other mortal has known, excluding Novakula. Whatever his doubts of the utility of living long enough to see old friends pop up in museums as mummies, or witness the bizarrely compelling spectacle of Katherine Harris, he’s learned a thing or two along the way. For one thing, he’s learned the importance of not letting morons run a country, having watched the Inca Empire suffer many civil wars requiring the eventual ruler to gain support from the priests and the national military. He now works during fleeting sober moments to build a vibrant progressive movement sufficiently strong and sustainable to drive a pointed stake through the heart of American “conservatism” forever. He enjoys a gay marriage, classic jazz and roots for the New York Mets.