Saturday, May 31, 2003

Scandal? What scandal? I don't see a scandal......

This is a gross scandal. The Center for Public Integrity has a stunning study out on the concentration of ownership in telecommunications. The even more stunning news is that the Federal Communications Commission, which theoretically represents you and me, is about to make all of it even worse. And behind this betrayal of the public trust is nothing but rotten, old-fashioned corruption. It's the old free-trip-to-Vegas ploy, on a grand scale.

The Public Integrity people examined the travel records of FCC employees and found that they have accepted 2,500 trips, costing nearly $2.8 million over the past eight years, paid for by the telecommunications and broadcast industries, which are, theoretically, "regulated" by the FCC. The industry-paid travel is on top of about $2 million a year in official travel paid for by taxpayers.

According to the center, FCC commissioners and agency staffers attended hundreds of conventions, conferences and other events all over the world, including Paris, Hong Kong and Rio de Janeiro. They were put up at luxury hotels such as the Bellagio in Las Vegas and ferried about by limo. Vegas was the top destination -- 330 trips -- New Orleans second with 173, then New York at 102 and London with 98 trips. Why London, you may ask. Well, do ask.

So here's the result of our regulators getting all these nice freebies where they schmooze with the industry guys. The three largest local phone companies control 83 percent of home telephone lines. The two top long-distance carriers control 67 percent of that market. The four biggest cellular phone companies have 64 percent of the wireless market. The five largest cable companies pipe programming to 74 percent of the cable subscribers nationwide.

Oh THAT scandal. There are so many....