Blackburn betrayed you. She took $497,499 from Telecoms, then she voted to let them sell your web history without your permission. Ask her why, call 615.591.5161 ~ Billboards in Blackburn’s District
Our collective disdain of regional monopolies like Comcast and AT&T is one of the very few things that tends to bridge the nation’s deep, partisan divides. Blackburn may just be about to figure that out the hard way. ~ Karl Bode
By Catherine Austin Fitts
Someone sent me an article by Karl Bode published recently by Motherboard explaining the reasons my Congressman Marsha Blackburn is likely to lose her bid to replace retiring Senator Bob Corker in the Senate race in Tennessee. It’s well worth a read.
I thought I would contribute to the understanding of “on the ground” economic details of why Blackburn is in political trouble. Given the facts, it’s likely to get much worse after the August primary when Blackburn has to face off against former Tennessee Governor and Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen.
Bode refers in his piece to pressure on the Republicans to persuade Corker not to retire. The Republican Senate majority is holding on right now by one seat – making a Blackburn loss particularly painful for the Republican Party and administration.
Unfortunately, this is a loss that will be well deserved. I say ‘unfortunately’ as Blackburn first went to Washington as a friend to small business who voted against the bailouts twice. If you look at the quality of my telecommunication services and the costs, you will understand why I say that Blackburn is no longer a friend to small business.
My Telecommunications Costs
I have a home office in Hickory Valley Tennessee, approximately an hour east of Memphis. My company employs one person full-time in Hickory Valley and one person full-time in Nashville. I also employ several other people in other states and use numerous providers on a project basis both in and outside of the United States. I would describe our combined team and the people we have access to as competent at technical matters and good at dealing with complex issues. If you find our operations “inefficient,” I assure you it is for reasons other than basic skills and work ethic.
Working remotely with team members and customers around the world means that I am dependent on telecommunications. I cannot afford to be offline or out of touch.
For years, my company and I have been plagued by phone and Internet access, quality and speed problems. Consequently, I maintain two Internet providers, including a satellite service, and have my assistant in Hickory Valley maintain a separate satellite service so that we have multiple Internet options at any given moment and can use the Internet to phone when the landline phones go down. Maintaining two satellite services among other redundancies is how we avoid the local AT&T monopoly. Despite these efforts, my client base has been limited to people who do not mind the clicking noise, echos and mysterious ‘hang ups” that regularly occur on my main phone lines.
My phone service is with a local phone company that operates on AT&T lines. That means my bill is higher than if I just signed up with AT&T. However, using the local phone company means I have a technically competent provider to protect me from AT&T and hold them accountable. Before they were purchased by AT&T, I used Bell South whose personnel on occasion also had to protect me against AT&T. (My favorite moment was when an outraged Bell South employee monitoring my discussion with AT&T broke in on the line and yelled to the AT&T representative in an outraged tone, “You can’t do that! That is illegal!)
Our cell phone service comes through three other telecommunications providers (again, paying more for redundant systems). My cell phone signals only recently started to work here in Hickory Valley, as the cell tower that was placed behind my home in 2010 was apparently targeted at AT&T service. I only use my cell phones when I travel. I rarely use them in my office except when the other phones and Internet go down. My assistant uses the phone hot spot as an Internet access alternative. Triple back up, so to speak.
Solari’s annual costs for telecommunications services with all these redundancies for two people in Hickory Valley, TN in 2017 was $15,441.78 although I am on the road a significant amount of time each year. (My satellite service is paused when I am traveling) I also spend money on EMF mitigation and am quite concerned about the health impact of the cell tower in Hickory Valley (said to be AT&T focused) and the smart meters which were installed immediately thereafter. We have no opt out program in Tennessee. I was in Portugal when my local utility threatened my assistant that they would cut off all electricity unless she gave them access to install the smart meter, this granting the cell tower 24/7wifi access to my home.
I often talk with business people who insist I can cut my telecommunications bills dramatically. When I listen to their solutions, they are assuming I can trust the system and operate without redundant back up systems. The reality is that the way to lower my telecommunications bill is to leave Tennessee and go to a place or country that has a first world telecommunications system that is reliable and trustworthy. I am guessing my telecommunications bill for my assistant and me would be no more than $2,500-$5,000 a year in a country with competent, honest political leadership capable of implementing community broadband or properly regulating private telecommunications companies.
The AT&T Block
On February 23, 2018, the Solari Report website went off line under mysterious circumstances. At the same time, we found our e-mail blocked by Google, Yahoo, and AT&T. After communicating with the appropriate parties, Google and Yahoo lifted their block. Since that time, we have continued to attempt to communicate with AT&T and reengineer our website mailing to work around the AT&T block. After extraordinary efforts without results, we requested last week that our subscribers who use AT&T domains submit new passwords and find a more reliable ISP.
We have added messages at our online Store requesting that subscribers not use an AT&T e-mail to subscribe.
Shortly after I published this request and e-mailed it to our subscribers, my phone for Solari, Inc and my phone for Solari Investment Advisory Services, LLC went dead. (Mysteriously, our fax line continued to operate) After two days of phoning, our local phone company sent a technician who concluded that he could not fix it. The problem required AT&T to fix it. They did after we had to run our business for three days without our two primary phones. We could do this because we spend a great deal of money to provide redundant choices and avoid the local AT&T monopoly.
I credit the appropriate federal and state legislative bodies with allowing such a monopoly to happen. There is a reason that local communities are starting their own locally owned and controlled broadband.
It’s All Legal!
Before I sent the “Recommendation to Our Subscribers on Your E-mail Provider,” I reviewed it with a law firm knowledgeable about technology and Internet Issues. They advised me that once the recent changes to net neutrality went into effect, it was perfectly legal for AT&T to block us so long as it was not contradictory to their Terms of Service. AT&T is a private company (although they earn approximately $2 billion a year as government contractor) and they have no requirement to notify their customers that they were blocking content that their customers are paying for and have requested.
That means they can block competitors to achieve a better market share. That means they can make deals with other large companies to block their competitors to help consolidate small business income into monopolies. This is why I believe that destroying net neutrality is such an important component of creating the infrastructure for significant and predatory “pirate-ization” after the mid-term elections. This means our telecommunications infrastructure will be intentionally used to consolidate small business market share into large corporations by what used to be considered illegal means.
Congressman Marsha Blackburn is chair of the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. During her career as a federal politician, Blackburn has raised $15MM in political contributions. AT&T has donated approximately $77,000+ making AT&T her fourth largest lifetime contributor. According to OpenSecrets.org, AT&T is the largest contributor to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Blackburn has supported the creation of monopoly conditions in local communities. The result is my monthly telecommunications bill in Hickory Valley is more than my monthly mortgage payment and my service is dreadful – from phones that go out to endless clicks and echos. I just closed my business providing individual investment advice. One reason is that there is a push to adopt cybersecurity plans. Given the local AT&T monopoly, I believe cybersecurity is not a possibility. I believe the AT&T systems are organized to profit from cyberinsecurity. Thanks to Congresswoman Blackburn and her colleagues, ISPs are allowed to sell private data without permission.
How the Money Works
How much have Tennessee consumers paid for Blackburns’s telecommunications donations? My guess is the answer is “a lot”
If my annual telecommunications bill for Hickory Valley services is $15,441.78 add to that the time and expense of dealing with intermittent outages and quality problems and the AT&T block. Add to that the time and cost of my subscribers having to change their e-mail addresses and find new ISPs. Add to that the time of managing phone complications and shut down. Add to that the loss of momentum, the impact on reputation and performance. My guess is the real cost to me in 2018 will be $25,000 or more.
I believe that with proper governance and enforcement, the a business like mine should be able to enjoy excellent phone and Internet service in a community such as Hickory Valley for $2,500-5,000 per year. So chalk $10-20,000 a year for one small business attributed to the cost of monopoly. Given the $21 Trillion missing from the US government and the involvement of AT&T systems in those government IT and payment systems, I could even argue that $2,500-5,000 number much lower.
Tennessee has a population of 6,715,984 people. We have 471,316 small businesses, according to the most current federal data available. Of those 471,316 small businesses in Tennessee, 106,729 have employees. The remaining 364,587 are Tennessee small businesses that have no employees. These small business statistics for Tennessee do not include all self-employed individuals working in Tennessee. According to the latest Federal data, the number of self-employed persons in Tennessee (including incorporated companies that file via Schedule C) was 289,202.
Let’s work with a small business infrastructure of at 800,000 small businesses or self-employed people. Let’s say conservatively 1,000,000 or more small business phone accounts. All are paying a “monopoly tax.” All are having their data harvested to potentially give business advantages to their competitors. All are having their data sold without their permission. All may be selectively blocked without warning or disclosure.
What is the cost? If I estimate that my small business is losing $10,000 per year as a “monopoly tax” as a result of not having a telecommunications infrastructure that is reliable and trustworthy, multiply that out for 800,000 businesses. Let’s say each business loses $1,000 a year – that is $8 billion into the telecommunications companies.
Now let’s say that those businesses on average have income of $50,000 each year. Thanks to recent actions by the Congress and the administration, that is $40 billion of annual revenues that the large telecommunications companies can target using predatory surveillance, blocking and marketing operations for themselves and their investors. As one extremely wealthy venture capitalist said to me recently as we were chatting at the Aspen Institute last fall, “We are going to replace every worker in American with software and artificial intelligence.” I have serious questions as to whether the telecommunications infrastructure has become a predatory system designed to facilitate that centralization of equity. Are small businesses customers or are we prey?
It seems to me that the cause of falling productivity should be pretty obvious. Indeed, the US was just dropped from Bloomberg’s list for the top 10 innovative countries.
If you estimate the monopoly tax that Congressman Blackburn has helped to be drained from the profits of entrepreneurs, small business and self-employed people, not to mention from household budgets, throughout Tennessee and America, you will understand why I believe that the Republicans are likely to lose one of their two Senate seats in Tennessee this November.
As Karl Bode points out in his article, that is quite a performance considering that the Republicans won Tennessee by 26 points in the 2016 Presidential election.
Part of Blackburn’s problem is that after the August primary, she will likely run against former Tennessee Governor and Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen. Bredesen has a reputation for successfully addressing complex government budget and regulatory challenges. He was a successful entrepreneur who started and built his own company. Bredesen gets things done without ideology at the”nuts and bolts” level. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about Blackburn’s role in tearing up net neutrality and creating a predatory field day on small business and households that is not good for Tennessee or America. Washington and Oregon have just completed state legislation to preserve net neutrality within their borders.
Perhaps the moral of the story is that everyone who passes legislation or approves regulations should be required to publish a pro forma and budget justification of the impact on a household and business budget so they can appreciate the consequences of creating productivity destroying monopolies long before they learn about it from their voters during campaigns lavishly financed by the monopolies they helped create.
Unfortunately for us, when Blackburn loses, we will still be stuck navigating the absence of market competition or local community-owned broadband options. We may also be stuck with a Democratic Congress led by Senator Schumer and Congressman Pelosi.
Let’s hope our fellow voters in New York and California have the good sense to ignore partisan spin and vote their monopoly creating incumbents out as well.
The Old FCC Guidelines:
ISPs “may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices.” In other words, ISPs can’t block access of any legal user to any legal website.
- ISPs can’t throttle, or slow down, the delivery of any legal internet traffic.
- ISPs can’t make a company pay to give its data packets priority delivery or prioritize the delivery of data from their own services.
- ISPs can’t adopt practices which would harm consumers or people providing services on the internet.
- ISPs must offer transparent specifics on how they run their broadband networks.”