If we ever needed evidence about how both major political parties are in the pocket of the telecommunications industryâ€™s very deep pockets, all we need to do is look at California. The new cable law kills the historic and critical role local governments have played in ensuring cable systems are held accountable and required to do public service. Now all franchising (the licensing of cable systems) will be governed by a single statewide agreement. Doling out these â€œone-size fits all, lowest common denominatorâ€ deals will be the feckless Public Utility Commission.
Democratic honcho Fabian Nunez, the Speaker of the Assembly, concocted the new law. Yesterday, GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it. According to the Los Angeles Times, â€œAT&T spent $18 million through June lobbying and running television and full-page newspaper ads urging consumers to support the NuÃ±ez bill â€” and then to thank NuÃ±ez after it passed the Legislature.” [registration required]
The argument that Nunez and his Verizon and AT&T pals made to pass the bill was that only by gutting local oversight could California see cable competition. Boy, these folks should be ashamed. They have removed the key mechanism designed to ensure broadband networks serve local needs. There wonâ€™t be any serious competitionâ€”in either price or content. Just a few extra giants who are now free to run roughshod over both the cable TV and broadband business.
But money and power talksâ€”and Nunez, Schwarzenegger and company played ball. Both parties in California have helped turn over a sizeable part of the countryâ€™s broadband resources to the very same interests which eliminated network neutrality.
PS: We note in the Los Angeles Times story the generally approving comments for the bill from USCâ€™s Jeff Cole, the executive director of its Center for the Digital Future. Cole should have said [and the reporter should have identified if he did] that his centerâ€™s â€œBoard of Governorsâ€ includes executives from AT&T (and other interests that supported the bill). As I said, money talksâ€”with policymakers and too many â€œeducationalâ€ institutions.