Originally published: July 14, 2011
Last updated: July 14, 2011 - 2:20pm
[Commentary] Early last year, a California senate committee held a hearing on the state of telecommunications infrastructure. One of the witnesses asked in his written statement of Feb. 4, 2011 a question acutely relevant to today's takeover of T-Mobile by AT&T.
Here is what the witness said:
"In 2006, AT&T and Verizon promised major investment in broadband expansion, video competition, and thousands of new jobs in California if the state deregulated the video market and passed a statewide video franchise law, known by its acronym of DIVCA. Well, now its four years later, leaving the clear questions: Where are the jobs and where is the high-speed broadband investment?"
Answering his own question, the witness supplied part of the answer:
"AT&T and Verizon have slashed the frontline workforce, and there simply are not enough technicians available to restore service in a timely manner, nor enough customer service representatives to take customers’ calls. Let me share some statistics. Since 2004, AT&T reduced its California landline frontline workforce by 40%, from about 29,900 workers to fewer than 18,000 today. The company will tell you that they need fewer wireline employees because customers have cut the cord going wireless or switched to another provider, but over this same period, AT&T access line loss has been just under nine percent nationally. I would be shocked if line loss in California corresponds to the 40 percent reduction in frontline employees.
"Similarly, since 2006 Verizon California cut its frontline landline workforce by one-third, from more than 7,000 in 2005 to about 4,700 today. I venture that Verizon has not lost one third of its land lines in the state."
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the witness noted:
"While the workforce of these telecommunications giants has been decimated by corporate downsizing, over the past three years AT&T reported $37 billion and Verizon earned over $33.5 billion in corporate profits. The public suffers, while these companies pad their pockets."
Who was this wise witness who saw that AT&T didn't live up to its promise of jobs in return for union support for yet another corporate give-away from state government? His name is James Weitkamp, and he is vice president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 9 that covers California.
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