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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Telecom Huckster Is Back, Here We Go Again

Remember Thad Nation? He's the guy who ran the fly-by-night consumer fraudster outfit known as TV4US (We Want Choice) a few years ago when AT&T pushed their way through the Wisconsin State legislature to break down and destroy local control of cable TV franchise agreements. Back then, Nation claimed Wisconsin residents would see TV cable rate reductions as much as 40% and even played on the emotions of Packer fans to help seal the deal on the state's corporate written (VCA) "Video Competition Act." The lobbyist controlled state government of course passed it. So, how’s your 40% cut in cable bills been working for ya?

But, do you know what happened to Nation's cable consumer advocacy group TV4US soon after the state passed the VCA? Why they folded up shop and disappeared as quickly as they arrived. Poof! That's right. Right into thin air.

Well, Thad Nation is back. This time at the helm of an astro-turf front job called "Wired Wisconsin," purportedly to be a project supporting individual consumers interested in technology, broadband and telecommunication issues. Sounds great - no?
JS Online Excerpt:
These figures are in line with the economic impact we have seen after other Midwestern states passed modernized telecom laws this past year. A Wired Wisconsin report, based on data compiled by Technology for Ohio’s Tomorrow and the Illinois Technology Partnership, found that Ohio and Illinois have seen more than $1 billion in combined investment and 28,000 new jobs in the past few months alone. -- Thad Nation
But this time, Thad Nation isn’t promising telecom, phone or internet charges to drop, instead he claims that if Wisconsin can change their telecom laws, it could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and thousands of jobs—all without cost to the state. He knows jobs, jobs, jobs is the hot topic. Dare I say, don't believe a word of it. Oh, despicable me.
JS online Excerpt: ( AT&T Cutting Jobs)
"If they get it, their obligation to keep the landline business running and viable is diminished because the legal oversight is gone," Orton said. "I can't help but think that is the corporate strategy because the money in AT&T is on the wireless side of the business."While AT&T said customer service would not be diminished under deregulation, Orton disagreed. "People in rural areas would get the brunt of the service cuts, including farmers, small-business owners and senior citizens who depend on landlines," he said.
Either that or landline rates will skyrocket to justify keeping them on the books.

Brace yourselves folks, we're in for another long ride. But don't flatter yourselves as the driver or a passenger. No way. Think more in the terms that we're the ones being ridden.


Thad Nation said...

I always enjoy being attacked by people I don't know and have never bothered to talk to me. So, if you are going to call me out by name, I might as well respond.

Yes I led TV4US in Wisconsin and yes, we helped pass the cable competition act, and yes, the organization then went away. Why wouldn't it? The cable marketplace was opened in Wisconsin and the goal of the organization was done.

More than 30 companies entered or expanded inside the Wisconsin marketplace, competition came to countless communities, Time Warner Cable, the dominant player in the state opened two new customer call centers, Time Warner, Charter, Comcast and others have all started offering faster broadband speeds, better service and advanced technology features. And on cost, if you have competition in your community and you have not called up your local cable provider and demanded a lower price, do it today. It works, I have done it personally. All thanks to competition.

So after the cable bill, the organization hardly "poofed". In March of 2009, I founded Wired Wisconsin to work on larger technology issues in the state, filling a glaring need. Maybe you have seen the work we did on helping pass e-waste legislation that is already helping keep tens of thousands of tons of electronic waste out of state landfills?

Our effort to pass telecommunication modernization in Wisconsin started last year when we pushed for legislation. It did not pass then. We are back again this year to push to get it done.

Over 99% of the state has some kind of competition for phone service, even if that's just a old wireline service and a cell phone provider. Nearly 50% of old wirelines have been disconnected in this state, as consumers have made the choice to move to another provider, whether that's a VOIP phone, a cable phone, a cell phone, or some other technology. All of those new technologies have a much lighter regulatory hand governing them. And it might shock you, but they provide a good product with good customer service to their customers, and their customers are so dissatisfied with the service and product that they get that they stay with them. (a little sarcasm...)

So, if they can and do provide this quality of a product with this lighter regulatory touch, why does the state continue to penalize companies that invested in Wisconsin for the last 100 years while rewarding those that have entered the marketplace in the last 10? For a customer, isn't a phone a phone? When you pick up a handset, hear a dial tone, and can make a call, do you really care what technology is behind it? No? So why should we treat the providers differently?

Sure, the regulation made sense when it was put in place. There was one phone provider in each local area, and cell phones were virtually non-existent when these rules were last updated in 1994. There was no competition.

But things have changed. Regulation needs to change to keep up with the marketplace. Should Wisconsin still be regulating telegraphs just because we once did? (I realize that's an absurd question, but it really is no different)

Every state around us has updated their telecom laws sometime in the last 5 years. Most did it in bipartisan fashion. Customers didn't lose service. Quality standards didn't go down. Instead, they saw more investment come into their state and more competition.

Why not Wisconsin? Why not now?

Lou Kaye said...

Thank you.

But I find lobbyists a scourge on good government and your tactics apalling. What happened to the web presence of TV4US? Excuse me for repeating myself, but soon after the VCA passed, I read the last of your damage control editorials giving reasons why rates did not go down and eventually absolve your group mission of TV consumer advocacy by disappearing into thin air. Mission accomplished!! Now you're back with a whole new shtick with the same corporate support and the same car salesman rhetoric as yet another consumer advocacy group. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. The people of Wisconsin should be fed up with the moneyed corporate influence in our state government. But I digress, we're open for business now.

Thad Nation said...

TV4US accomplished its goal of opening up the cable market in the state. So, I went on to a larger goal of pushing tech policy in the state and I believe we have made some significant progress.

I hardly believe that I have absolved myself of TV consumer advocacy. I still regularly field questions from the media on the current state of the cable television market in the state, and I was back in the Capitol last year testifying in front of the legislature on cable issues. You can probably still find the video on Wisconsin Eye.

I have no idea what you mean by damage control editorials. I am very proud of the results of the cable competition act and the tangible results it has bought to consumers all across the state.

I will also say that up until last year, I was never registered as a lobbyist and never was a registered lobbyist for TV4US. If you are going to criticize, at least get your facts straight. This one is a very easy one to check.

Lou Kaye said...

So you're trying to say that once the VCA passed, individual consumers no longer need an advocacy group in Wisconsin to work in their interests? I don't buy it. I've read your TV4US editorial where you stated that although cable rates did not go down as anticipated in Wisconsin, they did not rise as much as they would have, had the VCA not passed. Come on. Do you really expect folks to believe that? That was not what your group previously promised, you stated 15% to 45% rate cuts across the board. Don't get me wrong on that, I never ever expected rates to go down and I wrote about that in previous posts.

Anytime somebody paints themselves up as a consumer advocacy group working on behalf of customers and individuals, and then produces a long list of corporate sponsors is a sure sign - you're not a consumer advocacy group!! I'll admit that at least you do disclose your sponsorship - but you're a advocacy group working to advance corporate interests. Perhaps that is what fuels criticism most whether you're an actual registered lobbyist or not.

Thad Nation said...

I still firmly believe that there needs to be a consumer group that works on cable issues. That is why I started Wired Wisconsin. TV4US was started with a singular mission and over 20,000 people in Wisconsin signed up in support of opening up the state's cable marketplace to competition. That was successful.

Then the question was what's next? Should you take those 20,000 people and say, even though you signed up for just on one issue, you are now part of a group that works on all kinds of issues. That wouldn't be right. So we folded up shop in that organization and started a new one. We invited our previous members to join and some did, many only cared about the cable choice bill.

So as I mentioned above, I still very much work on cable issues and regularly talk to reporters and spent time in the Capitol last year testifying on cable issues. That mission has not gone away, its just be added to.

Lou Kaye said...

When you've accomplished what YOU are paid to do, deregging the state on your current corporate cause, Wired Wisconsin will disappear into thin air too. On to your next add-on project. "Many only cared about their cable choice bill." And still do. That's because digital TV, internet and telecom customers still need a group fighting for lower prices and better service, but TV4US is gone. But that doesn't matter to you because Mister Nation accomplished what he was paid to do and is on to the next corporate cause. A genuine consumer advocacy does not knock down regs, break down local control and then disappear. Again, why you don't call yourself a corporate advocacy group is beyond me, particularly now that we are ruled under corporate governance.

You've done it before, so history tells me that you will do it again.

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