Thursday, December 22, 2005

Outting DeMint

When you look up the word “collusion” you are taken straight to an economic definition that talks about gouging and fixing and “game theory.” But collusion has many variations. You can collude to commit a crime. You can collude to keep your mother-in-law from finding out how much you actually paid for your new entertainment center. You can collude to keep your kids believing in Santa. And you can collude to get your piece of legislation passed.

Jim DeMint (R-SC) came out of the barn last week with a crummy bill he lovingly calls the Digital Age Communications Act, S. 2113. This bill is by far the worst yet. It gives communications companies “Rights of Way Authority” with no compensation whatsoever to local communities (or even private land owners) as long as they don’t mess up the “safety, function or appearance of the property.” There’s not even a “can’t you kiss me on the cheek first” provision. Seems communications companies (read the Bells) could go into a community, start digging and never even have to contact local government to tell them they’re there.

It gets better.

It completely eliminates all franchising and any existing franchises expire at the end of the franchise or four years after the bill passes, whichever is first. Access channels kaput! The bill strips not just local government of its authority, but also the authority of state government.

In a section by section analysis (done by whom I’d like to know) it states:

“As communications services become increasing digital and packet-based, it has become nearly impossible to rely on jurisdictional boundaries as the basis for regulatory responsibility.”


Further, the bill puts into jeopardy the Universal Service Fund, which I can’t quite figure out how that plays into “competition” and “consumer choice” but then again maybe DeMint has some special crystal ball or one of those “8” balls that you shake up to get a prediction.

DeMint’s creation is soooo bad that when somebody asked me about it the other day my speculation was that it would go nowhere. Then, today, I checked on the status of the bill and saw that Senator John Ensign (R-NV) was the sole co-sponsor. Bingo! Collusion!

Why would Ensign co-sponsor something so lousy when he already has his own version of communications nirvana out on the table?1. Because when you want somebody to take what you’re offering, you give them an alternative of something even worse and at the end of the day you call it compromise.

At least Ensign’s bill includes five percent of gross receipts even though there’s a list as long as my arm of exceptions and it includes up to four PEG channels. It even includes must-carry obligations and requires the FCC to come up with consumer protections. DeMint is total napalm, it’s clear cutting, bull dozing, scorched earth.

I looked all through DeMint’s records and his telecom contributions are anemic. I read his journal, looked up newspaper articles, tried to get a read on what DeMint was thinking. Nothing stood out, with the exception of a resolution to honor Shoeless Joe Jackson, but even that didn’t account for the viciousness of S. 2113. Ensign is the only reasonable explanation.

DeMint is a co-sponsor of Ensign and Ensign is a co-sponsor of DeMint. How cozy. I can see them now at a holiday gathering in the Russell Building, dipping their cups into the eggnog, winking, nodding and giggling like school boys. Ensign leans over and whispers in DeMint’s ear “We sure pulled a fast one, didn’t we Jimmy?” DeMint squeals “Shore did Johnny!”

Well it wasn’t quite fast enough because some of these guys never know when to quit, they just can’t keep themselves from going so far over the top they hair-lip everybody.

DeMint has a journal on his website and this week he quotes the great Winston Churchill’s “Never give in” speech. He hammers on that theme, saying you can never give in, never let the enemy win, you have to stay the course and fight the good fight for the sake of democracy and your country. Sounds like good advice, something the rest of us should really take to heart.

Whaddya say?

1. S. 1504--Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act

Stumble Upon Toolbar