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Broken Promises: The Telecommunications Trust That Doesn’t Deliver

AT&T, Verizon, and cable companies like Comcast have quietly created the 21st century equivalent of the railroad monopoly, and are using their market power to raise rates, block competition, and supply inferior service to customers.

That conclusion comes courtesy of former telecom industry analyst Bruce Kushnick, who today serves as a consumer watchdog for the telecommunications industry’s broken promises and bad service.

Kushnick is chairman of New York-based Teletruth, a customer advocacy group that is spending a lot of time demanding Verizon finish the fiber optics network it promised would be available throughout states like New Jersey.

Kushnick has just completed a new e-book, the “$200 Billion Broadband Scandal” chronicling how the telecommunications industry has used power and influence to outmaneuver regulators and make promises they cannot or will not keep, for which they are never held accountable.

Kushnick’s view of the current state of broadband and telecommunications in the United States:

  • For the last 20 years, the nation’s major telecom companies have played the public and regulatory officials for fools – wrangling dramatic rate increases while making promises about fiber-optic cable they haven’t delivered.
  • The communications infrastructure is the most important thing to build back the nation’s economy.
  • The caretakers of America’s essential infrastructure have scammed us, big time, and it’s going to get worse.
  • The Federal Communications Commission is in the pocket of the phone companies.

Kushnick

Kushnick scowls over news Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable are about to cross-market cable and wireless phone service, calling it a textbook case of “Antitrust 101.”

Despite promises that the phone companies would bring extensive competition to America’s cable monopoly, the two competitors have effectively declared a truce.

In Kushnick’s view, phone companies like AT&T and Verizon are breaking their promises to regulators and consumers.

“Illinois Bell was supposed to rewire the state (with fiber-optic cable), starting in 1993 at an initial cost of $4 billion,” Kushnick said.

Instead, AT&T moved in and bought out the phone company and has dragged its feet on fiber deployment, along with most other big phone companies.

Kushnick told the Journal Star phone companies are going cheap avoiding fiber optic infrastructure while still ringing up huge profits.

“Every state is different. Pacific Bell stated they would spend $16 billion by 2000 on 5.5 million homes. Bell Atlantic claimed it would spend $11 billion on 8.75 million homes,” he said.

Verizon New Jersey said it would wire 100 percent of that state by 2010. Now there’s political action in New Jersey to hold the telecom accountable for failing to meet that goal, said Kushnick.

How do the companies get away with missing deadlines? “The phone companies have control of the regulators and a strong PR machine. The public is often unaware of what claims were made five or 10 years ago,” he said.

Kushnick is very aware. Take AT&T’s U-Verse service, so heavily advertised during NBA playoff games, for example. “(U-Verse) isn’t even fiber optic to the home but uses the old copper wiring,” he said.

While Kushnick puts a spotlight on the problem, the public would do well to bone up on what’s going on when it comes to the broadband services they pay so dearly for.

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  • Paul Houle: I can believe in AT&T's plan, but not Comcast. For better or worse, AT&T is going "all in" on video and is unlike other major providers in ...
  • Phillip Dampier: Yes, that battle with Northwest Broadcasting, which also involved stations in Idaho-Wyoming and California, was the nastiest in recent history, with s...
  • Doug Stoffa: Digital takes up way less space than old analog feeds - agreed. In a given 6 MHz block, the cable company can send down 1 NTSC analog station, 2-4 HD...
  • Phillip Dampier: Digital video TV channels occupy next to nothing as far as bandwidth goes. Just look at the huge number of premium international channels loading up o...
  • Doug Stoffa: It's a bit more complicated than that. Television stations (and the networks that provide them programming) have increased their retransmission fees ...
  • Alex sandro: Most of the companies offer their services with contracts but Spectrum cable company offer contract free offers for initial year which is a very good ...
  • John: I live in of the effected counties, believe it or not our village is twenty three miles from WSKG Tower, approxiamately eighty miles from Syracuse, WS...
  • Wilhelm: I'm in the Finger Lakes where Spectrum removed WROC-8 last Fall, but we still get other Rochester channels, WHAM-13, WHEC-10 and WXXI-21. I have to wo...
  • dhkjsalhf: "Another classic case of businesses being much smarter than governments." I don't know whether this was sarcastic or not, but I feel it's a sentiment...
  • New Yorker: It makes no sense. I wonder sometimes if raising the limits on how much money rich people giving to candidates could make it more expensive to buy of...
  • New Yorker: Will New York go through with the threat? As an upstater I have seen infrastructure projects drag on in cost and time (eg. 1.5 yrs to repair a tiny b...
  • Matthew H Mosher: Another classic case of businesses being much smarter than governments....

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