Pickering: Not Proud of GOP Treatment of Telecom Policy

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Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., delivered an uncharacteristically un-Republican rebuke of the Bush administration’s penchant for telecom deregulation on Monday at the Fall 2008 COMPTEL PLUS Convention & Expo in Orlando, Fla.

“I would grieve over all this work ... to have two companies left standing,” said Pickering, who helped create the 1996 Telecom Act.

Pickering, who is closing in on his last term in Congress, said United States policymakers need to return to open, interconnected oversight and move away from the duopoly he fears is re-forming. Indeed, there’s a better chance of the former happening once a new president takes office, he noted. Whether it’s John McCain or Barack Obama, the incoming chief will help “reclaim and restore” the vision of the ’96 Act, Pickering said.

Part of the attention to competition should include economic checks and balances, not just political ones, he added, explaining, concentrated economies are not diverse economies. Rather, diverse economies create innovation and jobs.

“The Internet is the greatest example of free-market capitalism in world history,” said Pickering.

Pickering’s speech came as the Dow industrials plunged below the 10,000 mark for the first time in four years. All stocks, including telecom’s were struggling the first business day after Congress approved the $700 billion bailout bill, and the effect was extending beyond U.S. borders. Pickering said he was one of the Republicans who voted for the bailout bill, not because he supported its principles, but because he feared the market and the nation would have been seriously damaged without government intervention.

“It takes capital for capitalism,” he said.

The tightening credit crunch was evidenced by AT&T Inc.’s fight to sell short-term debt and Verizon Communications Inc.’s insistence it still will be able to buy Alltel Corp.

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