Wednesday, May 25, 2011

As the Revolving Door Spins.

Not even months ago, Republican, Meredith Attwell Baker, a top telecommunications regulator from the FCC voted to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC, creating the very company that she’ll be lobbying for later this summer, as senior vice president of government affairs for NBCUniversal. That's right. This "public servant"  is cashing in on her vote.

Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV company, bought a controlling interest in NBCUniversal after the FCC and the Justice Department approved the deal with conditions following a year-long review. The FCC's vote was 4-1.

Of course, this type of behavior is nothing new coming from an agency that conducts much of its business off the record and away from public view.  Plenty of FCC commissioners have gone on to work for multinational media conglomerates, propped up with inside knowledge of the regulatory and lobbying industry. However, what's more surprising is just how blatant this move was.

The Obama administration’s ethics rules will prevent Baker from lobbying the FCC directly for the next two years, but she is free to lobby Congress whenever she wants to start ensuring Comcast can continue to monopolize the market in order to keep Americans paying ever increasing amounts for  telecommunication services. Craig Aaron, head of the public interest group Free Press, called the move an example of "business as usual in Washington — where the complete capture of government by industry barely raises any eyebrows." 

According to one former Comcast employee:
"Right after Comcast finalized that deal to buy NBC they let over 1000 employees go and I was one of them...nice way to say thank you for over 11 years of hard work to be kicked to the curb and we were told we were NOT allowed to say anything negative about Comcast either or they would come after us.
What is required of  Comcast?  Well, in lieu of more than 80 million Americans still going without broadband Internet service at home, Comcast has stepped up to the plate to substantially increase broadband adoption in low-income homes throughout Comcast’s service area.   
"In households in Comcast’s service areas with annual incomes below $20,000, broadband adoption rates are at approximately 40 percent. More than a quarter of those homes include students who are eligible for free lunches under the National School Lunch Program (“NSLP”), a commonly accepted indicator of need. (Qualifying homes have annual incomes of less than 130 percent of the poverty level.)"
In the end, the revolving door between the official entities that are supposed to regulate the various industries and the lobbying companies continue to spin on behalf of industry, and gratuitous tax giveaways to the wealthiest go on without interruption.  Meanwhile the erosion of the support structure for American citizens carries on, as those with all the authority to effect policy go unchecked.


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