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Kentucky Telephone Companies Pushing For Option To End Basic Service 157

An anonymous reader writes "There is a bill pending in the Kentucky State Senate that would eliminate almost all Public Service Commission oversight over local phone companies. Written by AT&T lobbyists, SB135 is being pushed by the phone companies as a 'modernization' of rules. It would keep the PSC from investigating phone service on its own and eliminate rules concerning price discrimination, price increases, required published rates, and performance objectives. It also will prevent any state agency from imposing net neutrality, and will enable phone companies to use the fact that there are cell phones to refuse to run a land line. The text of the bill is available online."
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Kentucky Telephone Companies Pushing For Option To End Basic Service

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @07:41PM (#39080809)
    • People should also go out and watch The President's Analyst again to get an idea of what The Phone Company is really up to.

  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @07:41PM (#39080817) Journal
    Money talks. 'nuff said.
    • Re:Hilarious! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @07:50PM (#39080941) Homepage

      But they really are sore losers.


      “This is one of the reasons we (wanted to buy) T-Mobile, so we could build out the wireless spectrum and offer higher speeds and higher quality coverage to all of Kentucky, including Harlan County," Rateike said.

      Right. I'm sure that was on the first page of the Powerpoint shown to the FCC.

      • by Animats ( 122034 )

        âoeThis is one of the reasons we (wanted to buy) T-Mobile, so we could build out the wireless spectrum and offer higher speeds and higher quality coverage to all of Kentucky, including Harlan County," Rateike said.

        Yeah, right. As if Harlan County (pop. 33,200, area 498 square miles) could possibly have a spectrum shortage.

        Harlan County is served by Appalachian Wireless [], an independent outfit. They're rather retro ("Coming soon: 4G Wireless!") It's a mountainous and sparsely populated area. There are towns like Teaberry, KY, (pop. about 400) with no cell sites anywhere nearby.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          As a citizen immigrant to Harlan County, I can speak to the lack of coverage here. Appalachian Wireless, the local major CDMA carrier, does provide a large coverage area. AT&T, the most popular wireless provider in the area, does not. Verizon does have a single tower, as does T-Mobile (though I can't understand why), though their coverage is non-existent beyond the Harlan city limits.

          AT&T acquiring T-Mobile would in no way expand their service offerings to the rest of the county/surrounding area. Th

  • Sure (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @07:43PM (#39080837)

    I can see allowing them to do all that, as soon as they are no longer the only choice in town, oh and all the subsidies that the government paid for installing the lines need to be paid back as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @07:44PM (#39080853)

    This sounds like a fine idea. But since they're truly free of regulatory shackles, they should have no problem paying whatever market rate the city wishes to charge them to rent the space under the streets that their lines run through.

    • by Githaron ( 2462596 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:18PM (#39081185)
      Agreed. If they want government aid and special treatment, we have every right to expect them to be regulated. If they want to make the shots, they need to pay for everything.
    • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <> on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:00PM (#39081521) Homepage Journal

      The better idea would be for the counties to use eminent domain to take over the lines and phone switches and rent them back to the telcos!

      Actually, this is not a bad idea. The telco's could then rent out the services to competing providers meaning an end to the monopoly and a need for such price controls. The original telco's could use their settlements to buy additional switches to stay in business, leasing the lines back from the counties.

      Monopolies are not free markets. One can create a free market by nationalizing the natural monopoly portion and then renting out access on a RAND basis to all potential competitors on a per-subscriber basis.

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      Yeah but I bet the good people of Kentucky would be too chicken to try that.

    • by Amouth ( 879122 )

      I'm a fan of removing their common carrier status if they keep pushing things like this

  • by Beelzebud ( 1361137 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @07:55PM (#39080999)
    Anyone see anything wrong with this picture?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @10:02PM (#39081969)

      No, I mean isn't that how all bills are written today? You wouldn't want to pull legislators away from important campaign fundraising efforts, would you?

    • (Before I get started, I would like to acknowledge that this bill is indeed a steaming pile of horse$hit. Now, back to my regularly scheduled criticism of knee-jerk Slashdot populism.)

      It is not at all uncommon for bills to be written by those with an interest in the matter. What's the alternative?

      Let's say Congressman X gets a bug up his butt about righting some wrong... we'll use warrantless wiretapping as an example. He needs to write a bill, and one that will not be as full of holes as Swiss cheese.

    • It was not written by the lobbyists. Items of it were requested by a lobbyists for multiple companies based on ideas originally requested by AT&T.
      The real question is why do you have problems with people banding together and petitioning their government for a change in the law.
  • Privatizing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koan ( 80826 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:00PM (#39081049)

    If you need any evidence why privatizing government services is a bad idea this is it.

    • In a truely free market, they would be required to pay for all their infrastructure and not get any special treatment from the government.
      • by Nimey ( 114278 )

        But we don't have a free market and that's all the government's fault.

        I've known an Internet Libertarian or two who basically argued from the premise that all ills were either directly caused by the gov't, or indirectly caused by the government doing something else foolish or malicious, then presented things (I shan't call them facts) to bolster that opinion.

        It's very tiring to argue with them.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:04PM (#39081079)

    Right now it's illegal for anyone to run phone cable in ATT or verizon's territory. they have government backed monopolies of these areas. Sure, they are forced to share bandwidth with other providers but those providers have no control over the cable or the prices charged for using it.

    Open it up so that other companies are allowed to run cable. They might now run cable... no one will be forcing them to do it. But they'll have the option and maybe if ATT acts badly that will give a rival company an incentive to step in and offer a superior service at a lower price.

    All these old grandfathered monopolies need to die. Throw holy water in their eyes, jam a fist full of garlic in their mouths, and drive a wooden stake through their hearts.

    If they competed without these rules they'd never even consider this sort of nonsense. Their competitors would eat them alive... probably with fave beans

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Running cable multiple times is just ridiculous. You want every company to repeat what the previous company did, really? Sure, let's duplicate every bit of infrastructure multiple times for the sake of competition, what a great idea.

      The government should build and manage the infrastructure and rent it out to companies to provide services on top of. That way, the cost of entering the market is lowered and lean and mean can beat fat and lazy.

      • Redundant infrastructure would definately pull the teeth on the netneutrality issue, and would effectively drown the "bandwidth hogs!" Issue too.

        Single runs might be easier for civil planners to manage, but they get constipated the way water and sewerlines do when too many people use them, and once the area is developed, good luck getting the trenchers and backehoes in to replace/upgrade the pipe.

        Allowing multiple companies to lay lines would solve a whole lot of problems.

        • Here's an idea: The government should own the pipes.

          Literally, the pipes: the cylindrical things in which you would then pull wires.

          So you'd have a 6" (?) pipe, and then ATT would pull their wire along, and Brand X theirs, and City Internet Co their own.

      • Running cable multiple times is just ridiculous. You want every company to repeat what the previous company did, really?

        We already have a Shell gas station. Why add a Marathon across the street? (Answer: To add more capacity and avoid a single point of failure.)

        We already own one hard disk. Why add more in a RAID? (Same answer.)

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:41PM (#39081371)

      Right now it's illegal for anyone to run phone cable in ATT or verizon's territory. they have government backed monopolies of these areas. Sure, they are forced to share bandwidth with other providers but those providers have no control over the cable or the prices charged for using it.

      This is correct. The idea is that it is wasteful for multiple companies to run multiple cables which do the same thing. Maximum efficiency (albeit not reliability) is achieved when there's just one company and one set of cables. So a company is selected and granted a monopoly for laying down and providing service over these cables.

      In exchange, they cede the right to set their own prices. All price increases have to be reviewed and OKed by a government-run Public Utilities Commission or Public Service Commission.

      Getting rid of the PUC or PSC without revoking the phone company's cable service monopoly makes no sense whatsoever.

      • The idea is that it is wasteful for multiple companies to run multiple cables which do the same thing

        And this idea has been debunked. It's no more wasteful than putting more disks in a RAID is wasteful. The waste comes from local governments' inability to efficiently price access to tear up the roads (PDF) [].

      • you could make the same argument about shoe companies.

        Should there only be one shoe company? it would be more efficient if there were only one that only made one type of shoe.

        Losses in efficiency by laying multiple cable is made up through increased competition, innovation, and consumer choice. Furthermore, the inefficiency is paid for by the corporation and NOT passed on to the consumer because of the competition.

        Will it be hard even without monopoly protection to compete with the big telecom companies tha

    • by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:45PM (#39081407)

      Their competitors would eat them alive

      That's the problem: They wouldn't. Because it works like this: No prospective competitor has enough money to build a nationwide network all at once. The only way to do it is to roll out in one city, then use the profits from operating the network in that city to roll out in the next city, rinse and repeat.

      The problem comes that whichever city you choose to start with, the incumbents in that city will drop their margins to zero only in that city on the day before you start offering service there. The only way to get customers to use the new network is to match the price cuts and operate with no margins, so the fixed costs (which the incumbents have already paid off and the new competitors haven't) thereby make the new competitor unprofitable and leave no profits to use to expand any further. And because prospective competitors know that will happen (as it has happened in the few instances where new competitors have tried to enter the market in the past, or there has been a municipal fiber roll out), no one is willing to invest in building a competing network.

      The fact that there is sometimes both a telephone and cable company that offer internet service in the same area is just a historical accident, because by the time they were actually in competition with each other they were both already big enough that they couldn't drive the other out of business with price competition without severe damage to their own business, so instead they just both operate on the unspoken agreement that neither will be the first to do anything aggressively competitive. But if a small new competitor ever started a build out, have no doubt that they would lower their prices until the competitor got the message that continuing to build a network will be made unprofitable for them.

      Realistically, if you want a serious competitor to the incumbents, it needs to be municipal. You pay for the network with tax dollars (or a bond issue) on the assumption that you may not ever make back the money, and if you do, great. And if not, no harm done, you've paid for fiber and now you've got it.

      • by makomk ( 752139 )

        I think historically it was even worse than this for telephones actually - there was no legal requirement for the incumbent to allow local calls between them and the new upstart in the same city at all, so they didn't, and what use is a phone line that can't actually be used to phone anyone you know living in the same town or any local companies?

      • You don't need to for the same reason someone using Verizon can talk to someone using time warner cable.

        The networks are connected.

        So build a small network and then connect it to the national backbone. People in the area you built your network will have the option of using your cable and then they use the backbone after they've left your network.

        I suppose you'll be boned if you have to use Verizon's trunk line but you could also build your own bypass. You don't need to build everything at once. Just part of

        • You didn't even read the entire first paragraph, did you?

          • I read it... you're arguing big companies can squeeze out smaller competitors. That's true though that doesn't justify the government backed monopoly.

            Why don't you remove the restrictions and lets see what happens? I suspect many small companies will try to offer better service at a lower price.

            Some will fail because they're bad at their job.
            Some will fail because the big companies kill them. But killing a smaller company takes money. You have to lower your prices and you sometimes have to buy them out. You

  • About time. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:11PM (#39081135) Homepage

    This is the fate of the US phone system. Once there are fewer than a basic minimum number of subscribers it will become extremely unprofitable to even maintain the wires that have connected the country for 80+ years. You can assume that the wires will not be maintained out of charity.

    Best be getting a cell phone is what that means. Oh, your rural area is underserved by cell towers? Too bad, that. Better move to the city where service is better.

    Did you not think flight from landline service would have consequences? It sure does, and it is really going to suck for some people. Aren't you glad you dropped your land line ages ago?

    There is no way the government can somehow force the telephone companies to maintain service at a huge loss. They aren't going to do it. And that means the end of the universal nature of the US phone system. This is a direct outgrowth of people dropping land line (regulated) service for an unregulated cell phone service.

    • Only problem with your argument is that rural areas ARE well-served. I can't recall the last time my phone registered "no signal", even in the most desolate of places. I know two people who are on SS disability and both have a cell phone. Hell, who DOESN'T have a cell phone nowadays?

      • by CrAlt ( 3208 )

        I think it depends alot of the topography of the area. New England is nothing but hills and valleys. There are lots of little dead zones all over my state of Connecticut. Go north up to northern VT/NH away from the interstate and you could go a long ways with zero signal.

      • I can't recall the last time my phone registered "no signal", even in the most desolate of places.

        I can. I was in northern Arizona, about halfway between Nowhere and Noplace - nothing but desert and mountains for a hundred miles in any direction.

        On the other hand, the farm my father grew up on, which is way back in the hills of MS, has decent cell service, last time I drove out to the old place.

      • by Nimey ( 114278 )

        Some areas, especially thinly-populated hilly areas and especially out West, really are not well-served.

        Can I guess that you live east of the Mississippi in relatively flat terrain?

      • by cvtan ( 752695 )
        Lots of places with even modest mountains have regions of no signal. Rural Georgia comes to mind as does Hawaii. My brother lives in Morganton, GA and I can't get cell service at his house.
        • North GA mountains. Went up there for an anniversary trip because there was no cell phone service and I could get away from the office.

          Dumbest move ever, work wise. Machines got powercycled repeatedly to fix "problems".

      • I'm on SS disability, you insensitive clod! And two lines of AT&T iPhone service. And 25mbit DSL service. And I can eat too!

    • This is the fate of the US phone system. Once there are fewer than a basic minimum number of subscribers it will become extremely unprofitable to even maintain the wires that have connected the country for 80+ years.

      If only something else existed that uses wires. Some sort of network.

    • You know who lives out in the sticks at one person per hundred square miles?

      The people that grow our food.
      • I thought the organizational structure of growing food in the developed world had changed so much since the days of the idyllic family farm that farmers could get long runs of fiber to the premises subsidized by their agribusiness bosses.
        • Didn't you read the article? It's outright illegal to lay your own cable in some of these places.
    • Ah, I see. So it's OK with you for poor people (read as: black people) to be denied access to telephone service of any kind, because they can't afford a cellphone and the phone company won't run lines out to them or have a basic wired service for an affordable price so they can at least make local calls? Asshole.
  • by quarkscat ( 697644 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:12PM (#39081141)

    No doubt there will be a "fair & balanced" amendment added to this Kentucky legislation that would force the local telephone companies to surrender all rights to their no-longer-serviced basic phone service "right-of-way" granted by the state. No? WTF! That's shocking news ...

  • by Above ( 100351 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:15PM (#39081157)

    Requiring them to carry the expense of installing copper twisted pairs and the equipment to operate it is outdated thinking. It's low bandwidth, short distance, and generally a waste of time and money for everyone involved.

    Rather, they should be required to install fiber to the home, technology that should have a 30-50 year lifespan, can bring high speed data to rural america, and operates for much longer distances reducing their equipment cost.

    • by ewieling ( 90662 )
      The incumbent phone companies like Verizon are putting in fiber as fast as they can. They have to share the copper, but they do not have to share their fiber.
  • by kawabago ( 551139 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:21PM (#39081213)
    Your phone company wants to service you, but you aren't going to like it!
    • This is what confuses me. Doesn't AT&T realize how many of its customers in Kentucky are armed?

      • This is what confuses me. Doesn't AT&T realize how many of its customers in Kentucky are armed?

        They also have a fairly low person/backhoe ratio. Wonder how AT&T likes repairing fiber cuts? How about two fiber cuts with 100 feet of fiber missing between them?

    • In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, keep it greasy so it goes down easy.

  • My opinion? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:30PM (#39081299)

    Fuck you too, AT&T!

  • Kentucky is doomed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @08:59PM (#39081513) Homepage

    Given that Kentucky sends to the Senate TWO of the WORST IDIOTS, it would appear likely that Kentucky will probably just end up screwing itself ... if the same kind of people are also in their legislature.

    Business, especially big business, simply cannot be trusted and needs government supervision. Fox. Hen house.

  • I work for a telco, and we have territory in TN. I even used to work for ATT (yes they suck to work for) I used to work PSC complaints. They're a joke. 90% of them are filed by the mentaly ill who claim their phones are being tapped. We really do send someone out to show them the NID and ped to show there is no electronic device installed while they chat on theie cordless phone. The complaints that remain are almost entirely related to buisness's that decided to go cheap on their building site and are angry
  • I live in a rural part of Alberta and I've been told the phone company really wants to get us all on VoIP over the existing WiMax network that runs here. That way they don't have to run wire out to new farm homes. In fact there are several miles of phone wire laying in the ditches around here that the company refuses to bury. I think they hope that if it gets cut by mowers and farm machines enough times that we'll beg for VoIP over wireless. The wireless WiMax system is pretty reliable, but not totally.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A debate on this would be fun to watch. The set of Rand Paul supporters should be in favor of the proposed bill on libertarian grounds, while the set of people who live in rural areas (and can foresee the inevitable price spike and service cuts that would follow adoption of the bill) would make for lively opposite sides. The fun part will be watching those in the intersection of these sets wrestle with the idea. Unfortunately, the bill's sponsor has forseen the service cuts. From TFA: "The bill's sponsor, S

  • The real scandal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:43PM (#39081829) Journal

    Written by AT&T lobbyists, SB135 is being pushed by the phone companies as a 'modernization' of rules.

    Hold the phone, Alexander Graham, what the fuck are "AT&T lobbyists" doing writing laws? Am I the only one whose gore rises whenever our legislators vote on laws that are written by the companies the government is supposed to regulate?

    The US gov't is tasked with regulating business just as surely and as constitutionally as it is tasked with protecting national security. So where are the congressional hearings about why industry lobbyists are writing laws?

    Right here on Slashdot, we've got a user, and early adopter, who is a New Hampshire legislator. A member of the lower house of the N.H. congress, and he's a big fan of ALEC, which is an acronym that stands for "19 billionaires who lobby for their own rich asses" or something like that. It probably actually stands for "American Legislation Exchange Committee for Family Prosperity and Progress into the Victorious Future", but if I go to their website to get the actual meaning of the acronym I'm liable to throw another 24" LED monitor ($179 at Tiger Direct) against the fucking wall and my wife swore she wasn't going to help me clean it up if I did that again.

    Anyway, this ALEC, this lobbying group for these 19 rich guys (yes, it really is 19) is responsible for writing almost all the major legislation passed by every Republican-controlled state congress in the US. That's right, these guys send out boilerplate to GOP run state legislatures who plug in the name of their state where it says "Your State Name Here" on the PDF file that ALEC so helpfully sends them attached to an email with the subject line, "FWD:Pass this bill, you slimy little fuck or we'll put $5million into a primary challenge against you next election and you'll never see another envelope from us".

    Anyway, this New Hampshire legislator, Seth Cohn, who thinks ALEC is just the tits tells me ALEC is just a friendly organization who advises legislators and gives them "good, clean code" to work with, as if ALEC was the teabagger equivalent of O'Reilly Publishing or the Open Source Initiative or something. Of course, these ALEC-written laws include laws to make sure blacks and poor people and students can't vote, and prisons get privatized and certain energy conglomerates get fat tax subsidies and schools change their science curriculum to teach the "controversy" that is global warming, but to this Slashdot user/New Hampshire congressperson, it's just "good code".

    Lobbyists writing our laws. What could possibly go wrong?

    Wait, wait, I've got something here...OK, this is something that dirty hippie, Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1816, and I'll leave you with this:

    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

    That's almost 200 years ago, from one of the dudes that invented this country. He already knew where it was going and he warned us. So when I read about "AT&T lobbyists" writing SB135, it makes me want to go out and occupy something like maybe some lobbyist's fat ass with my shoe.

    • Hold the phone, Alexander Graham, what the fuck are "AT&T lobbyists" doing writing laws? .

      You know.. YOU can write a law if you want to. You have to convince a law maker to back it, and introduce it. (err maybe you can lobby a law maker) The law still needs to be passed by the law makers before it is made into a law.

      • Re:The real scandal (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Saturday February 18, 2012 @01:10AM (#39083155) Journal

        err maybe you can lobby a law maker

        I don't have that kind of money.

        According to recent news stories, the ante is $100,000 just to get in the door of these SuperPACs. Have you noticed how the GOP primary race has become a contest between billionaires? Each candidate has their own billionaire as a patron. Santorum has the Fries guy, Gingrich has the Las Vegas casino owner. Romney has Hank Paulson and Goldman Sachs. Seriously, there has been news story after news story about how this or that billionaire is keeping this or that candidate "in the race".

        How did we ever have elections without billionaires?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2012 @09:44PM (#39081833)

    We today live in an age of rampant deregulation in many large industries, and many people and politicians believe that corporations will act responsibly without regulation. But let me bring you back to a prior age, the Gilded age and the Progressive era. In post industrial revolution america there was a serious lack of workplace and corporate regulations, the most famous of these was the meatpacking industry. In "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclaire, the meat packing industry was uncovered as to its disgusting an unethical business practices, the gory details of which you can read in the well written novel.

    In a round about way, many people believe that deregulation is good, and this bill is an excellent example of deregulation, and may in fact be beneficial, but history has taught us that businesses will not act responsibly, a prime example being Northern Securities, a railroad trust operating in the northern Midwest, which was busted apart by Roosevelt in 1904. The railroads in the midwest had been engaging in price discrimination for years, which had been seriously hurting midwestern farmers, and were detrimental to the nations economy, benefiting only the elite few.

    I fear only that deregulation in the celular industry will benefit only the corporations and will hurt end consumers. I also fear that many influential individuals have not adequately learned many of the valuable lessons that history has taught us, especially from this deregulated time in American history.

    I will admit that some of my fears amy be unfounded, there are still many protective regulations, and many of the monopolies that allowed for price discrimination that was seen cannot exist any more.

    • by temcat ( 873475 )

      Why exactly is price discrimination bad? After all, it's based on the same nice principle as progressive and even flat percent rate taxation: we take more from you for the same thing just because we can. But market price discrimination is better, because you can in theory (and often do in practice) find another provider of goods and services. No such thing with the government.

  • Good luck with your telco tubes :)
    I just hope your local gov was smart enough to insert a "open for any telco business" in.
    Get some friendly, smart people in from Canadian, South Africa, German, Russian, Australian ect. to run some cheap optical with a smile for any county, city or zone that asks for some competition and options.
    If you want to be the only telco you get special legal protections. Demand to be free of gov oversight, your state is now free to shop around too.
  • Don't end the requirement, update it.

    Fiber for everyone. Google thinks they can do it don't they?

    And how poor is Kentucky? I live in an older neighborhood with large lots, but everyone is either old or poor right now. 40mb uncapped DSL all around me, but I've still got only the worst 1.5mb available on my block. My cable company has a better network, and unfortunately they have a bandwidth cap and 50c/GB charge for overages.

    I have to give it to my cable company though, they provide (mostly) reliable
  • They used the same argumnent about the phase out of analog TV. It is going to leave the elderly and poor behind...i dont think that happend. They found a way to get a big government subsidy to give out free converter boxes.

    What ATT will do is get the government to finance a massive vDSL deployment in these areas and plop an ATA out there on a little battery (they get to keep their phone number and their phone) oh...and we will also give you a video and internet feed. Technology for everyone...ATT bankrol

  • Kentucky has phones?

  • Okay, that's fine. Give up your rights to those landlines and abandon all infrastructure for the people to take over and maintain. You get wireless in exchange for all your wired infrastructure.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.