How to Wire the Internet Market

In CorporateWorld, when the going gets tough, the tough get going ... to Washington!

What a hoot to watch all of these Rambo, Make-it-on-your-own Capitalists go scuttling to their bogeyman, Bad Ol' Big Government, whenever they hit a speedbump on their path to global empire. The latest corporate giant to beseech Washington for special favors is SBC Inc. This huge outfit is the local phone monopoly for 60 million customers in 13 states, stretching from Connecticut to California, Michigan to Texas. Calling itself "Your friendly neighborhood global communications company," SBC rakes in some $55 billion a year from customers, even though it has become notorious in some states for lousy service and high bills.

In 1999, this phone giant decided to remake itself into a razzle-dazzle provider of high-speed internet services for its phone customers. But there was way more razzle than dazzle to SBC's performance. It charged high prices, provided poor service, ran up huge costs, and couldn't compete effectively against cable companies that provide the same service.

So SBC has resorted to the tried and true tactics that served it so well for so long in its home state of Texas: Hire a passel of lobbyists, shell out millions in campaign contributions, and get the government to rig the rules of the game in your favor. An SBC-backed bill is already moving through the house in Washington.

It's called Tauzin-Dingell, named for its two chief sponsors, the commerce committee's Republican chairman and the top-ranking Democrat. Both gentlemen are recipients of SBC's political largesse. To further grease the skids, SBC named a new president for its company: Bill Daley. He's a former Clinton cabinet member, political operative, and a Mr. Fix-it for corporate interests. Daley knows nothing about the business of phones and the internet, but he knows how to wire a deal, and that's the fix SBC wants.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... In CorporateWorld, if you can't win ... cheat.

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