As AT&T tries to buy out its competition via the T-Mobile merger, it has sent out its allies and minions to push the company line in communities around the country. Here are two events in Minnesota and Wisconsin you should be aware of.
On Monday, October 3rd, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is going to host a debate between Amalia Deloney (MAG-Net Coordinator and friend of MuniNetworks.org) and Former Congressman Rick Boucher on the subject of AT&T's attempt to buy T-Mobile (which just happens to be the low cost provider in the wireless space).
A few short years ago, one would have expected Rick Boucher to champion opposition to this anti-competitive merger, but alas, the good citizens of his district rewarded his many years of hard work in Congress by voting for his opponent in the last election. As one often expects to see in DC, Rick took a new job and now works for a law firm with AT&T as a client.
Suddenly Rick Boucher is the Honorary Chairman of the "Internet Innovation Alliance," a group that has a name that sounds like he should head it. But the IIA is little more than a puppet for AT&T and like interests. They use it as part of their astroturf campaigns to further AT&T's agenda -- ensuring that most Americans are stuck using a network designed for AT&T's interests rather than the public interest.
We wish Amalia the best in the debate. This is a far better program than the last time AT&T came to the U's Public Policy school, which featured a blatantly one-sided program attacking inter-carrier compensation rules that have been essential for supporting rural network investment.
If you want to attend, you should RSVP to the Center for Science and Technology Public Policy. It will be at 2:00 in the Wilkins Room. Unfortunately, I have a prior appointment and cannot attend.
But the fun doesn't stop in Minnesota - it continues to Wisconsin on Oct 12 when The Internet Innovation Alliance joins a panel at an event by WisBusiness in Madison. Once again, the panel is greatly tilted in favor of a few self-interested industry voices that will undoubtedly explain how what is good for a few giant corporations is best for America.
One hopes for a future where we can have real debates about these important issues without playing the "who is puppeteer" game. AT&T has a legitimate point of view and should be free to advocate for it -- but should do so openly.