Earlier this week, I blogged about the Alabama Broadband Initiative and asked why we have to pay a private, Ohio-based company, CostQuest, $1.7 million to create a map showing who has access to broadband and who doesn't.
It's seemed a perfectly reasonable question: "Why can't the Alabama Public Service Commission provide that information?"
PSC Commissioner, Susan Parker, answered my question:
"The legislature deregulated much of the telephone industry in 05 so we cannot make them share that info."
Once again, our tax dollars at work.
The service area and service level of telecommunication companies is considered "proprietary information" in Alabama and many other states. They assert it would "adversely impact" their competitiveness if they were forced to share that data.
hmmmm.... what this really means (I think) is that if everyone knew what poor, spotty service they provide, then competitors might move in to provide better, cheaper service. Isn't that the essence of free enterprise?
Why aren't both Republicans and Democrats screaming about this racket? It directly hits some of their core beliefs in different ways - one from a competitive standpoint and one from consumer protecton.
So now we're left with some new questions:
- If the information is proprietary, how will CostQuest create a map?
- If the information is proprietary and CostQuest manages to pry it out of Bellsouth, AT&T, Comcast, etc., will the data be made public?
- If not, what the $%#@ are we spending our money on?
- Finally, why is the Alabama Legislature more concerned with protecting the privacy and profits of corporate giants than the pocketbook and quality of life issues of Alabama citizens?
Yes, NormBoyd... #4 is rhetorical. I think we all know the answer, sadly, and it's $$$$$$$$.
One thing the committee is doing right is working with the Obama transition team.
Kathy Johnson, director of the Alabama Broadband Initiative, said Alabama officials have been talking with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team and hope to receive some financial assistance from an economic incentive plan. Obama has made improving broadband access part of his objective for boosting the economy by improving the nation's infrastructure.
Here's hoping that new leadership in Washington will bring more results and accountability to federal spending. This project shouldn't just be a conduit for federal money to be funneled through the state to private companies.
Results! That's one of the changes we really need!
But it seems that the main thing we need in Alabama is for the Legislature to give the Public Service Commission the ability to collect the information it needs to adequately serve the public. It's just crazy that, in a time of severe budget crisis, we're paying a private company to collect information that our own PSC isn't entitled to.
Yes, much of it is coming from the federal govt., but, last I looked, they're having trouble paying their bills too.