Wednesday, June 22, 2011
A couple or five decades ago, before the advent of microwave relay towers in the 70’s and satellite delivery in the 80’s and the dawn of the internet in the 90’s, most television and radio network programming was delivered by AT+T Long Lines, not affectionately known in the broadcast industry as “Ma Bell”. If your local radio station wanted to follow the home team on the road, they arranged through the Bell System’s local Toll Test Boards to have a telephone line (“Class D loop”) dropped at the ball park, arena, or field where the sporting event took place, and the announcers hooked their equipment up to the phone line and fed the play-by-play to the local station that way.
Stay with me, folks. I’m going somewhere with this.
Needless to say, since Ma Bell had no competition back then, AT+T was not really a very customer-friendly business. An aggressive congress broke up the huge conglomerate in the 80’s, giving birth to the “baby bells” which served large regions of the nation. Then microwave took over, then satellite delivery took over, and then the internet made things go so topsy-turvy that today, we have only a small group of giant “telephone companies” – and we’re back to where we started.
Enter the politicians.
A couple years back, AT+T wrote a dandy new telecommunications law for Wisconsin, and the politicians copied and pasted it into Bill form, passed it, and the guv signed it. The pols promised a new era of cable and phone competition, with vastly wider choices and “competition” which would force prices lower and lower every year and elevate customer service to a new and fabulous high.
We all know how THAT worked out.
A few weeks ago, the dweebs tried to do AT+T another big favor, by essentially killing WISC-NET. For those who don’t follow closely, WISC-NET is one of these UW entities that provides broadband cable access to rural areas of the state (sort of like that “Wisconsin Idea” thingy they talk about once in a while). The “premise” (under what passes for thinking up there these days) was that AT+T could FAR better serve these rural folks, and, by gum, why would you want a gubbmint operation takin’ away all that potential bizness from a good ole’ private-sektor company like AT+T??? Damn, you’re taking bread out of the mouths of the babies of AT+T employees!!!!
The thing is, that anyone who’s ever sat down and looked into it for one minute has discovered, is that AT+T….or insert the name of any other giant telecommunications company here…is able to cherry-pick the neighborhoods it “builds out” into, and that’s why the folks out in the sticks don’t have broadband internet.
Wanna get AT+T U-verse? Fine, if you live in the right neighborhood of Madison. Not in MY neighborhood, though. I live in ZIP code 53713, but not the RIGHT part of 53713, and the last time I asked AT+T when they planned to deliver fibre-optic service to my neighborhood, the answer was “we really don’t have any plans for that right now.” Yes, my small suburban enclave of VERY nice homes and well-manicured lawns is not “desirable” enough for AT+T to “build out”- even though you can get AT+T U-Verse just a mile from my door. Meanwhile, AT+T serves our neighborhood with “twisted copper pairs”, which is essentially 1930’s technology.
If you don’t have broadband internet (and we do, thanks to Charter) you can’t really participate fully in the 21st Century, and that’s why anybody with a head on their shoulders knows that we’ve got to serve our rural communities with broadband internet, and since the good folks at AT+T might have to actually SPEND some money to MAKE some money, they’re not going to do it.
This is the sort of thing GOVERNMENT is good at: making sure all citizens can participate in progress and democracy. Words like that last sentence really piss off the government-hating crowd that’s in power now. WISC-NET, after all, doesn’t “show a profit.” (Don’t get me started.)
It looks like WISC-NET will survive this putsch by the government-hating crowd up there at the top of State Street, which is a good thing. As the old saying goes, even a broken watch is right twice a day.
Posted by Tim Morrissey at 4:07 PM