Hang up the phone right now…

Filed under: — site admin @ 12:02 pm

The Bush administration announced yesterday its decision to side with the Bells (NYTimes registration required, U:chatteruser, P:nytimes) in a long-standing conflict between the United States’ four regional Bell companies and companies that lease access to those lines to provide competitive local phone service, the largest of which are AT&T and MCI.

Let’s examine this for a moment. These four Bell companies – SBC Communications, BellSouth, Qwest, and Verizon – have been granted local monopolistic control over regional phone infrastructure to avoid having multiple separate infrastructures in any given area. These Bell companies, which have more than doubled the price of local phone service in the face of decreasing costs over the past ten years (even when adjusting for inflation), have been fighting to raise the “wholesale” rate that they charge to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs) for some time.

These are the same four Bells that make it impossible for you to receive DSL service without also getting a landline from a CLEC as per 2001 revisions to the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Taking a moment for this aside, were I to order DSL service from TDS Metrocom, I would also be required to order voice phone service from them. You might expect this sort of bundle-packaging as a result of TDS’s marketing research, but it actually comes from SBC’s requirement that they lease the line for both purposes, making TDS Metrocom less competitive with SBC.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice have both reversed course on this issue on orders from the Bush administration brokered by a promise on the part of the Bells to not raise rates before the presidential election in November.

Torches and pitchforks are on your left. One per villager, please…

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