The Big Bells killed my baby

When you have a natural monopoly, as you do with telephone service, some sort of regulation is often necessary to introduce competition into the market. It happened when the government broke up AT&T into the regional Bells under the Gipper, and it happened with the Telecommunications Act under Clinton, which opened up local telephone service to companies other than the regional Bells.

Now local telephone deregulation isn't the biggest issue in the world, but it has saved consumers some money. So the fact that the Bush government has basically reversed its course and sided with the regional Bells against cheap access to local lines is a move that will almost certainly hurt the average consumer--and obviously, hurt consumers who don't have a lot of money to begin with disproportionately more than others.

This paragraph caught my eye:

The administration's announcement followed fierce lobbying and aggressive tactics; each side has raised millions of dollars in campaign contributions for the president and the Republican Party. Before the decision, rivals of the Bells said they had told the administration that if it did not side with them in the dispute they intended to run television advertisements in swing political states accusing the White House of being responsible for higher telephone rates. For their part, the Bell companies pledged not to raise rates before the election in November.

Yes, companies on both sides lobby the Republicans and make big donations. But doesn't the regional Bell's promise not to raise local phone network charges until after the election in order to prevent AT&T and MCI of running adverts accusing Bush of raising phone rates seem a little, well, slimy? And if the regional Bells hadn't made that promise, would they have gotten what they wanted? You have Bush's team running adverts making people believe that Kerry supports a 50 cent gasoline tax, which he currently does not, but here you have Bush's regime actually taking steps to raise rates and the regional Bells are protecting him from criticism by promising to hold off until November.

Draw your own parallels to the pre-election Saudi oil price drops scandal-which-never-actually-became-a-scandal. I don't know what it is. I think maybe we have to start hoping for a dry spell of a couple of weeks where there aren't any new shocking revelations about shady business in the Bush camp so that we can actually spend some time focusing on just a few of the egregious illegal acts. Perhaps this is Rove's master strategy--overwhelm everyone with so much bullshit no one knows what to pay attention to anymore.

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