Friday, January 30, 2004


Dean Campaign Hires Bellhead

Howard Dean, the erstwhile "Internet candidate," urgently needs to explain to his core Nethead constituency why Joe "Nethead" Trippi is out and Roy "Bellhead" Neel is in. Neel was president of the US Telecom Association (USTA) in the late 1990s when it was the voice of the Big Baby Bells calling for an end to FCC enforcement of the 1996 Telecom Act's competitive provisions. In a USTA op-ed in 2000 (no longer on the USTA Website, but cached here) Neel said,
America’s local phone companies are poised to compete head-on for consumers if only the FCC reduced or eliminated outdated regulations.
The outdated regulations he spoke of in 2000 were the pro-competitive provisions of the 1996 Act. He believes that the FCC is, "requiring [the telcos] to give away their networks, facilities and equipment." What he meant was that he wants TELRIC eliminated. (TELRIC is an FCC pricing formula for unbundled network elements that is already so slanted that CLECs find it almost impossible to compete.) He says,
These burdensome regulations shackle the local phone companies’ ability to deploy broadband services like digital subscriber lines (DSL).
Those poor big baby incumbent telcos.

That's not all. In 1999, in a confusion symptomatic of failure to separate content from conduit, Roy "vertically-integrated-networks" Neel declared before the U.S. Congress that USTA was "in strategic alliance" with Jack Valenti's MPAA.

If Roy Neel declares support for Dean's Internet Principles, he alienates his oldest friends. It'd be like Dick Cheney marching against the war.

David Corn points out that Dean campaign slogans about, "taking our country back from Special Interests," ring dark and hollow under Neel. "You have the power." Really?.

I've always believed that the Communications Revolution was not represented in either Democratic or Republican parties, and I've found occasional allies in both. My nettiest friends in the Dean Campaign almost convinced me that Dean "got it." Now I am not sure at all.

I am grateful that Dean has opened up the dialog on the war, health care and the economy. I am dismayed, but not surprised, by the Dean media lynching recently blogged by John Perry Barlow. But now, unless the Dean campaign does something immediate and heroic to shore up its Nethead core, it is time to "Move On."

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