- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

District needs more competition for Comcast

The Jan. 16 Business story "Comcast increasing D.C.-area rates" is an indication of another reason why the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should quickly approve the pending merger of EchoStar and DirecTV.
This merger will free up valuable spectrum space so that the new entity will be able to offer more channels at a cost that is comparable to, or better than, that of cable television.
As of Jan. 1, federal law requires satellite providers to carry all of the local broadcast stations in a market if they choose to carry any. This means that if DirecTV wishes to offer the local network affiliates in Washington, for example, it must carry all local stations.
With the satellite merger, duplicate TV spectrum can be put to new uses, including broadband and high-definition television. This benefits consumers, especially those in rural and inner-city areas where access is limited.
A single satellite firm could use the cost savings from the merger to invest in new technology to better serve this market.
Whatever the FCC and the Justice Department decide, one thing is certain: The merger review will be contentious, lengthy and expensive.
Both agencies should recognize the economic costs of a long and acrimonious review and minimize them by expeditiously approving this merger.

Economic policy analyst
Citizens for a Sound Economy
WashingtonYour Jan. 16 story, "Comcast increasing D.C. area rates," is troubling to District residents who continue to pay higher and higher cable rates. Comcast says that the increase is largely needed to help it roll out its high-speed Internet service. This is all the more reason for federal regulators to give the "green light" to a proposed merger between the satellite companies EchoStar and DirecTV.
This merger is a free-market solution to the "digital divide" problem. It would make affordable broadband digital services as easily available to rural and metropolitan areas as satellite TV programming is now.
Besides the fundamental benefit of delivering broadband service, the merger would be a competitive shot in the arm for the whole pay-TV market. That market was a cozy monopoly held by the cable companies 10 years ago. Satellite TV changed that. Today, EchoStar and DirecTV have a combined market share of 17 percent, compared to 80 percent for cable companies.
The competition from satellite put the heat on cable providers to roll out new services for customers, including digital broadband services. That's the way a competitive free market is supposed to work.
The proposed merger of EchoStar and DirecTV is a winner for everyone. Their combined broadcast spectrum would give the new company the technical ability to carry many more local channels. And, of course, that spectrum would let them offer nationwide satellite delivery of high-speed Internet access and other broadband digital services.
All government has to do is stay out of the way and let this merger happen.

Frontiers of Freedom
Sheridan, Wyo.

Malcolm Wallop is a former U.S. senator from Wyoming.

Follow Enron's money

Your coverage of the Enron fiasco is insulting to one's intelligence. In two related front-page articles on Jan. 16, you seek to discredit Democratic officials because of their ties to Enron, yet the ties you cite are tenuous at best ("Enron gave cash to Democrats, sought pact help," "Lieberman urged to quit Enron probe over cash ties").
For example, your lead paragraph in the first article begins, "Enron Corp. donated $420,000 to Democrats over a three-year period while heavily lobbying the Clinton administration ." You state that Enron donated $420,000 to Democrats but spend the remainder of your article spelling out the myriad ways in which the Clinton administration acted on behalf of Enron. This gives the impression that Enron bought favors from President Clinton, which is extremely misleading. Of that $420,000, how much did the company donate to Mr. Clinton? Unfortunately, your readers will never know because you conveniently omit this information. (For the record, between 1989 and 2001, Enron donated $11,000 to Mr. Clinton.)
In your second article, you report that the National Legal and Policy Center has called for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman to step down from the investigation because "he and his New Democrat Network have received more than $250,000 in campaign donations from firms with ties to the case." By your own account, $212,000 of that amount was donated by Citigroup, Enron's creditor. Enron has many creditors that's why it filed for bankruptcy. How does receiving campaign contributions from one of these creditors create a conflict of interest for Mr. Lieberman? Also, you count contributions to the New Democrat Network (NDN) as if they were contributions to Mr. Lieberman. Ninety-four members of Congress belong to the NDN. To represent contributions to this organization as if they were contributions to Mr. Lieberman is misleading at best. For the record, Mr. Lieberman received a whopping $2,000 from Enron, and that was in 1993.
All of this pales in comparison to the amount Enron donated to President Bush. Mr. Bush has received $736,800 from Enron and its employees since 1993. There are a host of other ties, as well. Karl Rove met with Enron executives while in the process of selling Enron stock. Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, served on Enron's advisory council. Army Secretary Thomas E. White was an Enron executive for more than a decade. Lawrence Lindsey, economic adviser to Mr. Bush, was a consultant for Enron. Attorney General John Ashcroft had to recuse himself from the investigation because of previous campaign contributions that totaled $60,000. Enron representatives met with Vice President Richard B. Cheney's energy task force on six occasions last year. Then there's the case of Pat Wood, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). His predecessor at FERC, Curtis Hebert, contends that Kenneth L. Lay of Enron personally pressured him to move faster on energy deregulation, stating that if he did, Enron would support him in his new job. Mr. Hebert refused and soon was replaced by Mr. Wood as FERC chairman. Mr. Wood previously had served as the Texas state regulator.
Obviously, Enron has buttered both sides of the bread by contributing to Republicans as well as Democrats but 73 percent of its contributions have gone to Republicans. Your attempts to smear the Democrats as recipients of Enron's largess, while ignoring or downplaying Enron contributions and other political ties to Republicans, are laughable at best.


Benefits for illegal immigrants send wrong message

What a disappointing editorial decision to print the Jan. 16 letter to the editor "Humanitarian programs not a fatality of war," which makes no reference to any material from The Washington Times.
As an American who pays taxes and has supported dependents, I strongly disagree with the view of letter writer Kenneth J. Rummenie and President Bush that immigrants are entitled to food stamps, unemployment benefits and child care vouchers. No other country in the world offers such largess and wisely so. If immigration is to be beneficial, it must be self-supporting and add value to the community. To offer a menu of entitlements to every newcomer is a recipe for disaster.
With the already high levels of immigration, America's population is projected to reach a half-billion by 2040. We should be closing our borders and enacting an immigration moratorium, not advertising enticements and handouts. Once the world's population learns that America gives a "free ride," immigration numbers will explode.
Mr. Rummenie's simpering arguments alluding to our "spiritual bankruptcy" and lack of "justice" are not worthy of comment.


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