Analysis: AT&T telecom "reform" is bad for consumers

AT&T is about to reap some significant benefits from its latest attempt to deregulate the telecommunications services offered in Michigan.

According to Internet advocacy website Stop the Cap!, AT&T stands to benefit enormously from the latest attempt to deregulate the telecommunications industry in Michigan. These crony capitalist deregulation measures could leave rural Michigan customers without a phone line. They could also strip many consumer protection and oversight rules that protect ratepayers, and they would also eliminate the state Public Service Commission’s (PSC) traditional job of arbitrating telephone service and billing conflicts.


Basically it would give a lot of unfair benefits to AT&T and it would hurt the quality of service that Michigan telecommunications consumers receive when their phone service experiences problems. To put it another way it gives them a legal excuse to be lazy while continuing to rake in the cash because of the premium rates they charge.


AT&T has been able to work their charm on Michigan House Rep. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), who is responsible for introducing H.4314, a bill to overhaul Michigan’s telecommunications law.  This shouldn’t be a big shocker to anyone who knows how telecoms use the cronyism business model, but Horn has received more political contributions from AT&T than anyone in the Michigan House.

And according to records from Project Vote Smart, he’s the third largest recipient of phone company money in the state. Are you ready for another surprise? Horn’s bill delivers absolutely no discernible benefits to Michigan consumers. There is a large list of consumer friendly protections that Horn’s bill eliminates on Stop the Cap!, it’s definitely worth checking out.


But that wasn’t enough for AT&T the telecom baron, oh no, in coordination with Horn’s bill; AT&T released a congratulatory brochure that reminded legislators that they got the first half of their agenda enacted six years ago, and that now it is time for the rest of their desires to become reality.


AT&T said that the proposed bill part was part of “an innovation agenda to ‘modernize’ Michigan’s Telecommunications Act,” AT&T also characterized the laws as the ultimate red tape cutters, getting rid of “a rotary phone mentality in a Smartphone, Wi-Fi world.”


This is what AT&T considers innovation.

Telecommunications giants like AT&T get to write their own rules now because the interests of business and government are one and the same in crony capitalist economics. This proposed bill goes well beyond eliminating what AT&T considers to be outdated regulations and ancient phones; it could also cut phone service to Michigan’s most rural communities.


Again the list of injustices that AT&T is proposing is long and detailed but it is truly worth reading about. Stop the Cap! Is a great place to go to start learning about what telecom barons are doing in Michigan and other places. I had to go there to find out about AT&T’s war on consumers in Michigan because none of the local or major news organizations in Michigan were covering AT&T’s mischief in Michigan.


I had to turn to the alternative media once again just to find out what was going on where I live. Do you think it’s a coincidence that neither The Detroit News nor The Detroit Free Press gave this issue coverage?


2011 might end up being the year where the government and big business ruin the communications infrastructure for everyone. I do not think the corporate telecommunications and Internet systems will be viable within 5 years. The government and its many alphabet organizations can simply pull anything they don’t like from the Internet for the sake of national security, or something like that. I’m not sure anymore, heir excuses have gotten pretty lazy lately.


Douglas Rushkoff said it earlier in the year, and I’ll say it again now. We need to build our own telecommunications and Internet infrastructure at the community level. And then we need to find a creative way to keep it funded and away from the financial and political control of government and big business.