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Tuesday, July 03, 2007 

Mark Pryor: A Telecommunications Puppet?

Recently, Mark Pryor proposed legislation calling on the FCC to investigate BPL, or broadband over powerlines, a new technology that would make internet readily available to anyone who has electric power in their homes. This innovative technology would reduce the cost of high speed internet and make it accessible to rural places like the Mississippi delta region.

However, our good Senator is trying to snarl this new technology by calling for, what else, an investigation into its "intereference" and "safety." He wants us to believe that he is looking out for Arkansans, which is so far from the truth.

In fact, the National Association of Amateur Radio applauded Pryor and Ross for proposing this bill in both the House and Senate.

A deeper analysis shows, however, that three of Pryor's largest contributors in 2006 alone were communications interests who stand to lose money should the BPL option become readily available.

In 2006 alone Pryor received $15,800 from Bell South Corp, $15,000 from Communications Workers of America and $14,500 from AT&T.

BellSouth Corp
One of the so-called “Baby Bells,” the four companies that provide regional phone service across the country, BellSouth operates in nine southern states, including Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. BellSouth has also teamed up with another regional phone company, SBC Communications, to create Cingular Wireless, the No. 2 mobile phone company in the nation. BellSouth is also trying to expand into the high-speed Internet market and, together with the other Baby Bells, is lobbying Congress to lift regulations that make it harder for them to offer DSL service.

Communications Workers of America Communications
Workers of America represents 740,000 workers in telecommunications, broadcasting, journalism and other fields. The union’s members work for companies such as AT&T, General Electric and many of the nation’s top newspapers and broadcast stations. The union lobbies on a number of workplace issues, including health benefits, social security and prescription drug coverage. The union has also been a strong supporter of proposals to lift federal regulations and allow regional telephone companies to enter the long-distance market and offer high-speed Internet access.

AT&T Inc
After being broken up in the mid-1980s in a landmark antitrust case, this telecommunications icon re-formed in 2005, and became the nation’s largest phone company when SBC Communications bought AT&T Corp. for $16 billion. As SBC, the company led the fight to allow the Baby Bells to enter the long-distance market, where they hope to offer profitable broadband Internet services. Cable and telecom companies have been fighting over the issue for several years and recent legislation in the House would allow national cable franchises to be awarded to the telecoms. The cable industry complains this would allow telecoms to unfairly cherry-pick rich suburbs. The telecoms say that allowing states to issue all television licenses will drive down rates for consumers and add hundreds of channel choices. AT&T now has more than 49 million access lines in service. Cingular, which bought AT&T Wireless for $14 billion in 2004 and was part of SBC, is now in AT&T’s fold. Cingular is the leading US wireless carrier, with more than 54 million subscribers. And AT&T’s growth continues. In 2006, AT&T agreed to buy southern Baby Bell BellSouth in a deal valued at more than $65 billion.

The real issue here is that the telephone companies want to corner the market in terms of offering high speed internet. They see Broadband over Power Lines as a direct and cheaper competitor and are attempting to use the regulatory process to limit their competition.

Sound familiar?

Shouldn't Mark Pryor be encouraging competition so that Internet costs go down? Shouldn't he support any effort to bring Internet to rural Arkansas? Or have we come to expect Pryor to sell out to corporate campaign contributors?

Again you hit a homerun

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