Tag Archive: Oversight

Verizon wants to be excused from its broadband obligation – even though you’ve already paid for it

It was called Opportunity New Jersey, and you’ve already been paying for it for more than 20 years. It was designed to make this state one of the most wired, most advanced in the nation. If you’re a Verizon customer, you’ve been financing this at $1 dollar per month on your phone bills, with old copper wire out, fast new fiber optic services in. Verizon took in billions, according to some reports. Verizon, after striking this deal in 1993, also got the state to agree to looser regulatory oversight that it would have had without the deal. And the deal was, “essential” to the economic growth of NJ, which you now know is sluggish.

But depending on where you live, you might not feel very good about it. As long as two years ago, came reports that “the battle for America’s entire communications future is playing out this week in two small towns in New Jersey.” Those two little towns are both in Cumberland County; Greenwich and Stow Creek, where phone lines would suddenly go out, not for hours but for weeks or have background noise, plus bad wireless, and no cable. After complaints, the company seemed to do little more than move the goalpost.

Flash forward. We’re now 4 years past the 2010 deadline. And now BPU’s about to OK an agreement that would modify some requirements of the original deal, including allowing the company to provide only high-speed wireless Internet in some areas. Which is not what they promised, not what they collected your money for, and not what serves the people who won’t be getting that high-speed wireless. Verizon says it’s already invested heavily in the state. Here’s what NJ Citizen Action says:

Every Verizon telephone customer in NJ has been paying an extra $1 on their phone bill for the last 20 years so Verizon could build out high speed internet network to the entire state. We’ve paid for it, and now Verizon is saying they don’t have to do it.

BPU has kind of an arcane platform for registering comments. But if you want them to hear from you on this issue, here’s what to do: (1) me@BPU at this address. Put this in the subject field: “Verizon New Jersey, Docket No. TO12020155”. Deadline is 5pm, March 24.  

Investigation of GWB lane closures may extend to U.S. Congress

Pulling this back up top for a while, since I posted it at nearly 3am and people might not have seen it. In addition to the new possibility that Congress may get involved, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation may enter this investigation. Below, video recap: Sen. Weinberg on @Maddow – Rosi

On Rachel Maddow tonight last night, Sen. Loretta Weinberg said she will ask the U.S. Congress – which passed the legislation that created the Port Authority itself – to investigate whether the sudden GWB lane closures were politically-motivated. Port Authority was already under the microscope of the federal General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. In August the GAO submitted a report to the U.S. Senate with a  stinging criticism of PA’s 2011 process in jacking up tolls, recommending both better transparency and more oversight of its workings.

Ironically, that report was released to the public on September 13, the same day PA ED Patrick Foye learned of the lane closures and ordered the Christie appointees to reopen them immediately (see NJ.com’s timeline). Failures of transparency, and inadequate oversight. Add that it’s also a highly politicized agency. It isn’t hard to see how it might have been possible for political hacks answerable to a governor or his consiglieri might assume they could get away with ordering career professionals around, telling them they had to reverse years of safety procedure and eff up Fort Lee for the better part of a week. And keep their traps shut about it, or risk their jobs. Not hard to see how big-salaried dirty tricksters with more political loyalty than brains might have every reason to think they’d get away with it. Be insulated. Be rewarded. Run roughshod over the sober and responsible people who also work at the Authority.

Weinberg will introduce a resolution Thursday that asks Congress to investigate the Port Authority. My own thinking all along is that this should be in the province of investigations on any and every level that is productive – legislative, journalistic, and legal if warranted. And if there’s nothing politically rotten here that goes higher than it already has, and the only guys playing shenanigans with the 300,000 people who use that bridge every day are the disgraced David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, well then the governor should have no reason to oppose congressional inquiry.

Short ad. Then Maddow.

Selective Oversight

In an editorial today (albeit on an unrelated matter), Al Doblin reminds us about Rep. Scott Garrett’s views on Government oversight when it comes to GIVING OUT money to people in need:

The honor system never works well when there is public money for the taking. After Hurricane Katrina, Rep. Scott Garrett, R-Wantage, was vilified by pretty much everyone for not supporting emergency federal funding for victims, but he raised what later became a prescient point: That there wasn’t proper oversight and without it, there would be widespread fraud and abuse.

Greenstein wants more oversight of Financial Industry

Saying she wants to find ways to help prevent the problems that sparked the economic meltdown, Assemblywoman Greenstein says she will explore more options for state oversight:

“This crisis does not stem from inadequate oversight at the state level, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do more to fill the gaps,” said Greenstein (D-Middlesex), the Assembly Judiciary Committee chairwoman. “It’s important that we ensure our attorney general has the right tools to protect the public from those who would play games with their investments and retirement savings.”

During her testimony last week, AG Milgram suggested some changes including:

Milgram suggested requiring investment advisors with five or fewer clients to registering under the state’s securities law. Such advisors are currently exempt, allowing some advisors, including hedge fund managers, to go unregulated.

The attorney general also proposed bringing variable annuities under the state’s securities law. A variable annuity is a contract with an insurance company in which the insurer makes periodic payments from a range of investment options. Milgram said the state often receives complaints about annuities, but lacks regulatory authority.

Finally, Milgram proposed clarifying the authority of the state’s Bureau of Securities chief to assess monetary fines for violations under state law. Milgram said some argue the chief lacks this authority under state law, though case law decisions have held that he does have this authority.

Greenstein says she plans to introduced the needed legislation as soon as possible so stay tuned.    

Booker on Values, Liberties, Oversight and the bailout

Yes, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has all of that packed into one thought over at his blog, Moving Newark Forward:

In the time of crisis, one should cling more tightly to his fundamental values not abandon them.  In the face of terrorist attacks, you don’t surrender your civil liberties or those things that make us American.  In a financial crisis, you don’t just turn over billions of dollars in taxpayer money with little or no oversight — lax oversight and abusive judgment helped fuel the problem to begin with.

Well said.