By LARRY M. JONES
This famous quote addressing communication failure is a classic line from the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke,” starring Paul Newman. Strother Martin, who played the role of the warden in a southern prison, would use this phrase every time he gave Luke a good whack with his baton. The concept resonated so well with moviegoers that it was voted No. 11 of the 100 all-time favorite movie quotes according to the American Film Institute.
Failure to communicate down on the “pore farm” was pretty easy when I was a youngster, since we didn’t get telephone service until 1962. The Communications Act of 1934 was supposed to fix that, but it seems someone didn’t get the memo. The bill was to “provide nationwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges” to “all the people” of the United States. AT&T was allowed to jack up long distance rates to support this service.
Almost 30 years later, we finally got an eight-party line. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 added additional new fees, especially the Universal Service Fee (USF), which was also to provide rural access to high-speed Internet and cell phone coverage. It seems this massive “hidden tax” instead only provides for free Obama cell phones in Chicago, Detroit, et al.
On our phone bills today, it seems that roughly a fourth of a basic phone bill is comprised of these fees, contributions, taxes, charges, services, or surcharges. All perfectly legal, because I have read that between 1998 and 2010, AT&T alone spent $130 million on lobbying in the United States. You can buy a lot of your very own political weasels with that kind of money. You can also be assured that telephone subscribers like you and me paid every dime of these political bribes, administrative costs and corporate profits.