Friday Roundup: FCC Revolving Door

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Meredith Attwell Baker, one of two Republicans on the five-member Federal Communications Commission, has resigned to take a job with Comcast/NBC Universal. In January, she voted to approve Comcast’s $13.8 billion acquisition of NBC. 

We thought there were rules against such “revolving door” switches, as regulators make rules on Monday for companies they then go to work for on Friday. Apparently, those rules apply to staff, not to commissioners.

She leaves just as the FCC is deciding whether to approve a merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, and whether it should overhaul the universal service fund, which the FCC hopes will be used to extend rural broadband service.

•Here’s a rural distinction we didn’t know about.

Rural residents are five times more likely than those from cities to be treated for eye injuries in emergency rooms. The highest rates of eye injuries were in the rural Northeast and Midwest. 

• USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has asked the Corps of Engineers to rebuild the Birds Point-New Madrid levee in Missouri as soon as possible.

The Corps blew the levee to lessen flooding downstream in Cairo. As a result, 135,000 acres of cropland was flooded. 

The Corps has not said whether it plans to rebuild the levee after the flooding subsides. 

• Farther downstream, the Mississippi is expected to reach a level that will result in the opening of the Morganza Floodway, which would flood the Atchafalaya River basin.

Louisiana officials (and residents!) were frustrated late in the week as they awaited an official decision from the Corps about whether, or when, it would open the floodway. 

• A group of nine rural Members of Congress gave joint testimony this week asking that as their colleagues develop a new transportation bill, “please do not forget rural America.” 

• AT&T Chief Randall Stephenson said this week that his company would not accept any money from the Universal Service Fund to pay for expansion of its wireless broadband offerings to rural areas. Stephenson made the promise at a Senate hearing.

Stephenson also said he would speed up approval of roaming deals with smaller carriers. 

AT&T made the commitments as it tries to gain approval of its purchase of T-Mobile.

• Good gallery of photos here from the Great Flood of 1927

• U.S. farm exports reached an all-time high of $75 billion during the first half of 2011. 

 

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