Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chavez plans to nationalize phone company

I worked for a phone company that used to belong to the people it served and was sold out to the highest bidder. When I was there, it was like Venezuela's major phone company CANTV, partly owned and disproportionately dominated by American phone giant Verizon.

So I've seen from the inside - and the outside on a picket line - what privatization did to service, management culture, respect for the customer base and any kind of idea of duty to the public.

Like so many examples of the 'wonderful benefits of competition' the result has been reduced service, increased prices, poisonous labour relations and a gigantic public infrastructure created by public will and public funds profiting a small executive and investor class.

Remember paying your phone bill at a counter? Remember getting the phone service you asked for when you asked for it? Remember offices in your neighborhood? In your community at all?

I actually heard managers say with a straight face that our customers had to readjust their expectations of what they should expect from their now private phone company.

When you hear the executive class, the compliant mainstream media, the free market ideologues and the rest of the usual suspects fulminate about the tyranny and dictatorial behaviour of a leader keeping a promise he made before he was re-elected with a massive majority, think about a utility or service in your community that used to be public and/or regulated and now is private. Remember good service, good jobs in the community and low bills.

You might find yourself envying the Venezuelans.

Which is of course, what is upsetting the Chavez haters most of all.

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