Communities Answering Telecom Call

June 5, 2002
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It may seem that defense of a government’s unique ability to provide services, which are available through the private sector, is an oxymoron on these pages. Consider, however, whether it is sane to ask government to regulate government.

Grand Haven’s Board of Power and Light most recently put its toe in what is currently a cesspool of “service” for telecommunications. Coldwater, Hillsdale and Holland are already at various stages of providing or studying such expanded services. Now enter the Michigan Chamber of Commerce which last month resolved to encourage “fair play” legislation governing municipal involvement. Perhaps they have missed the debacle created of telecom legislation currently causing everyone to wonder what begot what in a vicious tangle of non-service.

If the issue is indeed fair play, these small community governments might be encouraged. Private sector companies are awash in arguments over who/what owns which cable; companies laying cable are doing so in major metropolitan markets, skipping the Hollands and Grand Havens for the bigger share. Consider the comment of one Grand Haven resident and businessman, “When I want to see the chairman of the Board of Power and Light, I can.”

The Michigan Chamber seeks to have legislation subjecting municipal telecom to the same taxes and regulations as the private sector, primarily because governments have tax exempt status in purchasing equipment and financing. Turn that around and it has the sound business laments of government prescribing more costly regulations for business.

What threat is to be made of these small communities providing services to their residents when the private sector already has shunned them? What is at stake is access to the world via the information highway and the ability of businesses as well as residents in smaller communities to grow and access information.

Reliability and dependability is exemplified in each of these communities, and no better than by Grand Haven Board of Power and Light’s ability last year (ask Mark) to rebuild an entire system in four days after (Mark:disaster). We would ask whether anyone recalls how many Texans in Ameritech trucks it took last year just to answer standard service calls in the greater Grand Rapids metropolitan area. Such an insult of incompetence by the private sector at this writing deserves no consideration in “unfair” privilege.

One has to ask who might be contributing these days to the Michigan Chamber. 

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