The war is on. The battles are over common sense, integrity and intellectual honesty in telecommunications legislation. Cable is losing to the telephone lobby on all fronts. Weapons of Multiple Denominations (WMD’s) are in the hands (and pockets) of our opponents: $10’s, $100’s, $1000’s. AT&T has a whole lot of them. Verizon too, and both are using them with abandon. That’s how they got some key members of Congress to suggest that the two companies, each with market capitalizations larger than the entire cable industry, should be considered "new entrants" in cable and given sweetheart deals to enter the business. It’s incredible, laughable, and sad, but unfortunately the way things work in Washington more than ever before. It’s a waste of time to make intellectual arguments that the ’96 Telecommunications Act worked, and for the first time there is facilities-based competition with the phone company, provided by the cable industry. That was the Act’s primary objective. Now, some of its authors are doing a 180 and saying the very phone giants (now even larger) they were trying to tame have suddenly become the poor, new entrants needing special privileges so that they can even begin to compete with the "giant" cable industry! Don’t bother with the plainly obvious numbers and facts. Some of these same members of Congress made impassioned speeches about the "digital divide" and the need to assure that all segments of society benefit from true, facilities- based competition, which will lead to ubiquitous, universal broadband service. Cable, of course, has already built out its broadband system to provide that service to almost all our customers. But our competitor, also with a nationwide wireline system, doesn’t want to go to that expense. Now, reminiscent of fedora-clad Jack Abramoff, the symbol of the way DC works these days, those same congressmen are proposing to bribe local officials with an extra 1 percent tax on cable revenue to look the other way and allow the telcos to red-line all but the richest areas of town. The phone companies already acknowledge they only plan to build new plant for about 40% of their customers. Guess which ones. Integrity is a thing of the past in Washington. And then there’s just plain common sense. Of course it’s hard to apply such a standard when lawmakers suggest it would be too difficult and time consuming for telcos to get local franchises, and the objective is "speed to market." Instead they dispense with local and state government prerogatives and grant an unprecedented federal franchise. Never mind that the telcos have secured more franchises than they can build with the capital expenditure funds they’ve allocated for upgrades during the next couple of years. There will be no significant impact on speed to market, only which rich areas the telcos choose to most easily milk first. To add insult, these guardians of the public interest are suggesting rules to effectively prevent cable from competing on price in the newly built telco areas, at least until the telcos secure a minimum of 15% of the market-quite a dowry for the sweetheart. How is all this is happening? With the millions the telcos are spending on ads and lobbying, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if the answer turns out to be WMDs.

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