Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Red and green confetti of ethics in telecom

Saw that Fairfield got compared to San Francisco again, this time for our supply of media: "Cable Operators Blast Handling of Rural Broadband Initiative," Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2006, see the second-to-last and last paragraphs (emphasis added):

Critics say many of the practices criticized by the inspector general are continuing. For example, the lawsuit notes that in November a $9.5 million loan was approved to Local Internet Service Co., known as Lisco, to provide broadband service in Fairfield, Iowa, a market with two broadband providers, Mediacom, of Middletown, N.Y., and Iowa Telecommunications Services Inc., of Newton, Iowa.

“We’re basically talking about a third wire going into the home,” says Rocco Commisso, Mediacom’s chief executive. “Even San Francisco doesn’t have that.”

The cable operators, Mediacom and Iowa Telecom, say that these federal loans are increasing the risk to their own investments by unfairly subsidizing their competiton, e.g., Lisco. I do feel sorry for cable operators. This federal subsidy, just like every federal subsidy, is immoral and unfair. On top of that, cable operators are snarled in reams of regulations that make doing business more of a miserable mess than a daring adventure.

But I would have more pity for them if they took a stronger stand to oppose and reduce the snarl of red tape in the cable industry and in communications in general. Instead, they regularly lobby for "a level regulatory playing field", which is a handy, seemingly blameless way to reduce the threat of competition from upstarts. Like Lisco.

Red tape and greenbacks make such colorful confetti going through the ethics shredder. After it all settles to the Capitol building floor, any fix involving more confetti of either color will be far from "fair".

Anybody got a broom and dustpan to sweep up this mess? How about a shovel and a dumpster?

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