Monday, February 20, 2012

You Can Keep The Dime, Operator

When you privatize a utility and cry "Government has no business in business!" and leave everything up to the free market and profit motive, you invariably get people who are priced out of the market.  Take for example phone companies who want to simply end landline phone service in the some of the poorest counties in the country in eastern Kentucky.

The industry is pushing Senate Bill 135, referred to as "the AT&T bill" by its sponsor and others because it originated with that company's lobbyists. The bill would strip the Kentucky Public Service Commission of most of its remaining oversight of basic phone service provided by the three major carriers — AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell — such as the power to initiate investigations into service problems.

More significant, critics say, the bill would let the companies end basic phone service in less profitable parts of their territories if other communications options. State law now requires the companies to serve as "carriers of last resort" for households throughout their territories.

AT&T says it must follow where the market leads. Among its customers, land line usage has dropped 50 percent over the last 10 years and wireless usage has jumped 300 percent, said AT&T spokesman Brad Rateike.

When you take utilities out of the public domain, this is invariably what happens.  Profit motive means providing the utility to areas where it's unprofitable means the service is ended.  That's where we're heading right now, and with the country needing tens of billions of dollars worth of utility and infrastructure improvements, putting those under the aegis of the free market will only make things worse.

Taxes exist precisely for things like this.  But we're told government itself is evil and useless.  I may joke about how glibertarians want us all to fend for ourselves, but the reality is that's exactly where we're going under "smaller government".

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