Occupy Telecom, Occupy the FCC: How the Communications Trust is Harming America’s Future

The telecom trust’s use of the FCC to raise your rates is a direct example of how corporate greed impacts each of us.

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In light of Major Mike Bloomberg’s displacement of Liberty Plaza/Zuccotti Park, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) campaign is spreading throughout the nation and the world. Most important, its critique of inequality is getting sharper and more systematic. Its core target has been the banking and financial-services industry, but activists are turning the spotlight on other, equally pernicious sectors of the economy, including the extraction,
healthcare military and prison industries. Analyses of these industries reveal a common story: the fix is in.

The nation’s communications industry traditionally escapes critical
inspection. In our busy postmodern life, communications, like air, water and electricity, is essential, merely taken for granted. Whether making a phone call, emailing a friend, accessing information, paying a bill or watching a political debate or TV show, our telecommunications infrastructure is a vital link to others and the world.

Last Month, the Federal Communications Commission announced a reform plan of the Universal Service Fund (USF) as part of its implementation of the National Broadband Plan. The reform is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, President Obama’s stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the USF reform plan is going to raise your phone, broadband, Internet and wireless rates in five new ways, all designed to give more money to the phone and cable companies.

Few have raised objections to the FCC’s effort and one can only ask why? The answer is that the “communications trust” — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other major telecom companies — has taken control of the FCC, the agency that is suppose to “regulate” telecommunications and the media. The trust spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually buying off members of Congress, state legislatures and Public Service Commissions (PSCs), maintaining an army of influence peddlers and subsidizing numerous think-tanks, astroturf groups and nonprofit organizations.

OWS has put greed on the political agenda and exposed how pervasive it is throughout corporate America. The telecom trust’s use of the FCC to raise your communications rates is a direct pocketbook example of how corporate greed impacts each of us in subtle and not so subtle ways.

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Time for a Wireless Divestiture

Time for a Wireless Divestiture. The AT&T-T-Mobile Proposed Merger Is Only a Symptom of the Problems.

Letter to Congress Calling for a Wireless Divestiture, Part 1.

FCC Petition to Deny the AT&T-T-Mobile Merger

TAKE ACTION: File Comments with the FCC or Back our Letter To Congress

Teletruth and New Networks Institute are calling for Congress to start investigations into a wireless divestiture, separating AT&T and Verizon wireless from their incumbent wires (broadband/landlines) that they currently control. We also filed with the FCC a Petition to Deny the AT&T-T-Mobile merger.

While it is important to stop the AT&T- T-Mobile merger — Let the wireline and wireless companies really compete and not collude between the wireline and wireless vertically integrated services and networks. It harms the economy and harms customers.

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AT&T T-Mobile merger.

AT&T and T-Mobile Edge Closer to Merger, What’s In It For Customers? Very Little

Telecom companies are rigging the game to make bigger profits on mostly-unregulated wireless, even as giant mergers eliminate most competition.

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It’s Time to Break Up AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner & the Rest of the Telecommunications Trust

At the dawn of the 20th century, the oil pipes defined America; as the 21st century emerges, the information pipes define America and the world.

A century ago, a courageous muckraker, Ida Tarbell, wrote a series of articles that lead to the break up of Standard Oil – which had become a trust controlling the energy and associated industries to fix prices, restrict competition and harm the nation.

Today, the “communications trust” — AT&T, Verizon and the major cable companies of Comcast and TimeWarner – controls the two wires and the wireless networks that link the nation’s homes, businesses, schools and other institutions. The communications trust has failed America. A couple of examples illustrate this failure:

 America is now 15th in the world in broadband. While Hong Kong and other countries are rolling out 1 gigabit speed services, America’s average is a mere 5 mbps (i.e., 1,000 mbps = 1 gigabit).
 Americans paid over $340 billion for broadband upgrades that never happened; by 2010, America should have been completely upgraded with fiber optic services to every home.
 The FCC approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBC-Universal foreshadowing a likely wave of integration of transport or carriage and content.
 Together, AT&T and Verizon control 80 percent of all wireless services and AT&T is now attempting to close down one of the only remaining competitors, T-mobile.

AT&T has proposed a major rate increase, known as “broadband caps,” on high-volume video distribution targeting initially heavy movie users. This sets the stage for a two-tier pricing model that could effectively end net neutrality. The full effect of these and many other actions by the trust, working through “captured” FCC and state public utilities commissions (PUCs), will be the erosion of Universal Service, further harming those most vulnerable.

This is the first in a series of articles to recapture the muckraking spirit pioneered by Tarbell and her compatriots. This spirit needs to infuse 21st century journalism with a sense of critical engagement. It targets the telecommunications trust and has three explicit goals:

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