Monday, December 13, 2004

Phone Service

This article from the New York Times depicts the true cost of "universal service," i.e., the notion that everyone, no matter where, should be served by the phone system.
MINK, La. - It's no secret what the 15 householders in this tiny settlement want for Christmas: the same thing they have always wanted year round - telephones.

* * *

Alexander Graham Bell's invention of 1876 never reached Mink, a onetime trappers' paradise in the Kisatchie National Forest in west-central Louisiana, although neighbors just down the road on Highways 117 and 118 were wired for telephones in the 1970's.

The telephone also never reached the hundred families of Shaw and Black Hawk, hunting and camping communities across the state along the Mississippi River, some of the few and untabulated places around the country lacking telephone lines. Yes, the telephone is not everywhere. In fact, televisions are more common in American homes today.

* * *

Then, last February, Foster Campbell, a state senator elected in 2002 to represent north Louisiana on the state's Public Service Commission, came here for a community meeting and got an earful.

Mr. Campbell said in an interview that he did not understand at first. "I said, 'What, you have static?' They said, no they never had a telephone. I said: 'Wait a minute. You never had a telephone?' I had to sit down."

"We just put the heat on the telephone companies," he added.

Kevin F. Curtin, a spokesman for BellSouth, said that Mink had been unclaimed territory but that the utility was complying with a state order to annex Mink into its service area, at a cost of $700,000 - or about $46,000 per customer.
There's a chance that BellSouth will be reimbursed out of a state fund next year.

Still: $46,000 per customer? I get the feeling that someone wasn't performing cost-benefit analysis there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something is fishy, that's for sure; For far less than that, you could have bought every one of them satalite phones, and annuities to pay for the service in perpetuity. I think the key point is this:

"There's a chance that BellSouth will be reimbursed out of a state fund next year."

I wonder what they snuck into the bill that they'd been wanting to do all along, but couldn't justify unless it was going to be on somebody else's nickle? That "chance" probably approaches 100%, by pre-arrangement.

9:26 AM  

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