Friday, February 24, 2012

Meet Your Chairmen, Part 3 - Rep. Charles Jim Beckett (AT&T's best buddy)

Rep. Charles Jim Beckett, selected by Speaker Philip Gunn as the chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee, has filed legislation that would prohibit the Public Service Commission from regulating AT&T and other cell phone companies.  Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D) shot back with a press release yesterday.

In the press release, Presley gives some background on why Rep. Beckett filed a bill that is sure to enrage his constituents:

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said today that House Bill 825 would totally strip the PSC of any authority to hold AT&T accountable for rate increases and lousy landline and cell phone coverage. Presley said the bill was requested by AT&T as retaliation against the PSC for denying a rate increase and for complaining of poor cellular and residential phone service. The PSC won a case in the Mississippi Supreme Court to limit charges to customers after AT&T appealed the PSC’s ruling.
Presley then goes further to explain what's been happening since the Legislature caught deregulation fever in 2006:
Presley said the Legislature passed the first phase of deregulation in 2006 and since then complaints to the Commission about billing errors, poor service and the like have risen from 1,735 in 2006 to 4,361 in 2011 an increase of over 150% .“This is evidence enough of why this bill is bad for consumers”.
This bill gets even worse, though.  Check this out:

Along with removing all of the Public Service Commission’s authority to investigate abuses, extortion and customer complaints, House Bill 825 also removes the Commission’s authority to designate conditions for AT&T’s receiving of millions in federal funds to promote rural cell phone service. Presley said the Commission’s authority to place conditions on those dollars has been the main tool to increase cell phone coverage in rural counties. “Rural Mississippi’s interests are gutted in this bill.” Presley said. (Emphasis added.)

Mind you, Rep. Beckett is from Bruce, MS, which ain't exactly urban.  Matter of fact, anyone who has driven on Highway 7 right outside of Bruce and tried to make an AT&T cell phone call could tell you just how much this bill will hurt Rep. Beckett's constituents.

And how much did this bill cost AT&T? $2,500.00.  $500.00 in October of 2011, $500.00 in August of 2011, $500.00 in November of 2010, $500.00 in November of 2009, and $500.00 in November of 2008.

Of course the bill was assigned to Rep. Beckett's committee, which means it will sail to the House floor, be voted through by the House Republican majority, and find its ultimate fate determined in the Senate.

A final tidbit:  Rep. Beckett, now chairman of Public Utilities, lists his occupation as attorney on his legislative biography page.  And looking at his associations (Prosecutors, City Attorneys, School Board Attorneys), you would think he's just a good old country lawyer.  But if you go to the Bar Association's website, you'll notice that his email address is at  If you then go over to the Secretary of State's website and search for Beckett Oil, you uncover Beckett Oil & Gas, which is Rep. Beckett's oil company.

1 comment:

Stog said...

This is a copy of the message I sent to Chairman Beckett, author of the bill.
I deal with 'video services' nationwide and think you need to understand this bill is headed 180 degrees in the wrong direction. The bill you needed to file or amend should have the PSC with oversight on all 'video services' (otherwise known as cable) and their packaging of Internet and VOIP with it, circumventing and shortchanging municipalities and counties.
We've never had a private conversation but it may surprise you to learn I've been involved in media in Mississippi since an early start as a reporter in 1958 and owned several Mississippi weeklies through the 70's and have been engaged with cable television since the early 80's when I had business dealings with the late Alan Torrence and Ronnie Slaughter, both developers of some of our stI deal with 'video services' nationwide and think you need to understand this bill is headed 180 degrees in the wrong direction. The bill you needed to file or amend this one to be should have the ate's cable systems. I find examples of abuse by not only AT&T but many cable operators throughout the country.
AT&T ain't what Bell South was in the days they had local managers that actively participated in the communities they served. Today the Washington Post owns more cable sites in Mississippi than any other MSO and they, like AT&T, are 'takers' not 'givers' to the communities that grant them rights of way and more.
Please trashcan this bill are, better yet, let me help you rewrite it to give PSC some control and the funds to do so.