Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

The Power of Affirmative Government

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

The Power of Affirmative Government

Article excerpt

In "Power to the People" (FORUM, Winter 1998), William J. Ray hits the nail squarely on the head in asserting that "government has a responsibility to see that all its citizens have access to the latest telecommunications technology." In fact, he has been delivering this message consistently for more than a decade. Today, at least within the universe of the nation's 2,000 locally owned electric utilities such as the Glasgow Electric Plant Board, an increasing number of publicly elected and appointed officials are stepping forward to accept this responsibility.

Critics of what Mr. Ray refers to as "affirmative government" are aware of this trend and are pulling out all the stops to bring it to a halt. Some of the corporate giants in the world of communications have convinced a few state legislatures to prevent local governments from providing telecommunications services. The legislatures that have succumbed to these lobbying efforts have put the interests of private corporations ahead of the public interest. And, as Mr. Ray notes, the Federal Communications Commission is permitted by Congress to override state laws, yet it has so far declined to exercise this authority.

Other opponents of affirmative government complain about how inappropriate it is for local governments to engage in enterprise activities. In their view, such activities, whether they be local electric utility service or telecommunications, should be the exclusive province of private business. …

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