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Consumers will benefit from new phone rate law

Re: Legislators awaken to realization that the phone rate law stinks, Jan. 23.

Howard Troxler's column overlooks the positive aspects of telephone rate rebalancing _ that it will bring meaningful competition to the residential market, and will bring much needed new investment to our state.

The Florida Public Service Commission conducted a thorough, diligent and open review of the telephone companies' petitions to restructure rates. After arduous scrutiny, with consumer groups fully represented in the process, the PSC gave its unanimous approval, affirming its belief that the petitions correctly interpreted the law's intent.

The testimony presented over 40 hours of intense cross-examination of witnesses on both sides of the issue. This showed that the positive expectations _ better competition, more investment in Florida, minimal disruption for consumers, better innovation and service _ are far more likely than any dire predictions being made.

A few other important factual points about the law: It will not allow the telephone companies to eliminate service quality rules as Troxler asserts. The law clearly gives the PSC power to veto any changes, or tailor them to local conditions. Nor will the companies be able to charge "hundreds of millions" if the government changes the rules for access charges in Internet protocol calls. In that event, the companies will only be able to accelerate the rebalancing already approved _ with the same requirement of revenue neutrality.

Florida took a bold and correct step in 2003 for the future of telecommunications in our state. It will usher in a dynamic new era of competition. Consumers should keep their eyes on this industry. They are going to see _ and benefit from _ some great things.

Alan Ciamporcero, president, public policy and external

affairs, Southeast region, Verizon, Tampa

Some real public service

Re: Legislators awaken to realization that the phone rate law stinks.

Thank you, Howard Troxler, for the constant bull-dogging of the "Public Service" Commission. What a farce the PSC has allowed Florida's telephone rate structure to become! The nepotism that has existed within the telephone company since deregulation has finally come back to bite us all in Tallahassee.

We have had the same long distance carrier for years, yet it is now "related" to the local carrier (just look at the way stocks have split and been bought out since Ma Bell was divided). While we prefer our long distance carrier and would like to also use it as our local phone company, we can't yet. We are forced to pay the long distance company additional fees now to reimburse the local company for "renting" the use of their lines. And whenever I go to the local company to pay my bill, the people there try to talk me into switching to their long distance to "save me money." That is just one example of the "freedom" deregulating the telephone companies has provided.

I am posting Troxler's list of votes on my refrigerator and will take it to the polls with me for all future elections when I plan to vote accordingly.

Howard, don't let up! You give more meaning to the word "service" than the PSC ever dreamed of.

Alison Roth, Tampa

Exposing the truth

Re: Fierce outcry sidelines water distribution plan, Jan. 22.

Residents of North Florida can sigh with relief thanks to the St. Petersburg Times. The paper's efforts to expose a scheme by the Florida Council of 100 deserve recognition.

Jeb Bush and his buddies (real estate developers, sugar growers and investors,) intended to hide behind closed doors while they plotted to reroute water from our pristine, natural lands of the north, down to the south, to supply more land developments.

Now the governor says people who write editorials and advocate free speech should have waited for his so-called council's report before they protested. He has the audacity to mention the need for a "free-flowing debate." The only thing "free-flowing" would be the Suwannee River into Miami-Dade County.

State water management officials say there is sufficient water supply for future growth for the next 20 years.

Shame on you, Jeb! Who were you trying to dupe?

The Times staff should be commended for exposing the truth.

Harriette F. Bryan, Tampa

Arrogance on display

Re: Duck-blind justice, editorial, Jan. 21.

It is inconceivable that anyone would even attempt to socialize alone with a judge who is due to hear his case. Even if the two were related, it shouldn't happen. But it did happen when, of all people, the vice president of the United States went duck hunting with, of all people, a Supreme Court justice. Justice Antonin Scalia will soon review whether a law was violated when lobbyists were invited by Vice President Dick Cheney to secret meetings on energy policy. The Times was absolutely right to criticize the judge for not avoiding even the appearance of bias.

But what of the arrogance of Cheney to even consider going hunting with Scalia?

Scalia must have realized the cozy getaway might be misinterpreted, but apparently felt he could still be impartial. That's also arrogance. It amazes me. Didn't he calculate that if he decides Cheney broke the law, it will appear he was deliberately trying to show his lack of bias? Of course, if Scalia decides Cheney didn't break the law, well, guess what? Scalia's hunting date was a one-on-one that could present him with a lose-lose choice when he reviews the case.

And what are we to think of our vice president? At the risk of being disrespectful, it's my opinion that Cheney's wealth and position have given rise to an imperious, haughty, smug attitude of someone who truly believes that his behavior is always above reproach. Not unusual. (See ImClone and Martha Stewart.)

Make no mistake. It would be hopelessly naive to believe he made the date because he just wanted to have fun with Scalia.

While Scalia's behavior was shocking, Cheney's wasn't surprising. For me, "hiding in the bushes" and "getting his ducks in a row" come to mind and conjure up a perfect image of our vice president. Shame on him.

Jack Bray, Dunedin

Reflecting on Cheney's words

Vice President Dick Cheney went to Europe and told the assembled leaders that "idealogies of violence must be confronted at their source . . ."

You would think that someone in the crowd would have had the presence of mind to hand the man a mirror!

David L. Scott, Redington Shores

Put faith to the test

Re: Were he stands, editorial, Jan. 25.

While I agree wholeheartedly with most of your criticism of President Bush's State of the Union speech, I take issue with your objection to faith-based initiatives for the rehabilitation of released prisoners.

Religious faith is a cultural phenomenon that informs and directs the behavior of the majority of Americans. It is legitimate to expect that religious faith may prove the most effective means to reinsert these individuals into society as it has already proven one of the most effective forms of support for the rehabilitation of individuals suffering from substance abuse and for the general promotion of a healthier, longer and more productive life. It is not far fetched to conceive that the elimination of faith from the treatment of emotional or physical disorders may prevent the healing of these very problems. In addition, as a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, I object to any forms of censorship and discrimination toward the expression of particular beliefs.

An approach more consistent with the democratic values you profess, and with scientific integrity as well, would demand that these initiatives account for their outcome, by submitting them to the same scrutiny to which other forms of medical and behavioral treatment are subjected.

Lodovico Balducci M.D., Tampa

Marriage crisis is among heterosexuals

Re: The State of the Union speech.

I was amused with President Bush's reference to gay marriage as "an issue of such great consequence" that he encourages tampering with the cornerstone of our government _ the Constitution _ in order to "defendmarriage." After more than 30 years of gays fighting for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation, Bush has placed the moral future of civilization in their hands.

Apparently, gays and lesbians in relationships are responsible for threatening the "sanctity of marriage," now federally defined as a union between only a man and a woman.

Bush calls marriage "one of the most enduring institutions of our civilization." Yet, more than 50 percent of heterosexual pairings end in divorce _ emotional and expensive at best, destructive to individuals and families at worst. How easy to blame "gay marriage" rather than admit to the weakness, insecurity, irresponsibility and failures of commitment among those involved. The divorce rate was soaring decades before the concept of legal unions between loving, committed people of the same sex was made a political weapon of fear.

If married heterosexuals can't save their own unions, how can a constitutional amendment force them to?

Gays will continue to form loving relationships as they have for centuries, with or without governmental or societal approval.

Richard Sullivan, Tampa

A disappointing trend toward the left

I would like voice my concern about the trend of the Times toward the far left, liberal ideology.

Publishing gay unions in the marriage section of the newspaper is a mockery of the traditional values of this country and the sanctity of marriage. Allowing damaging and degrading comments toward respected government officials such as Colin Powell to be printed is disturbing. Also, some of the comics you allow in the editorial section of the paper have no value, no humor, are degrading and should never appear in a quality paper. Who is overseeing the final product you produce?

I am very disappointed in the direction the Times is headed. I would not recommend this paper any longer and will not continue to subscribe if this trend continues.

Robert Nash, Odessa

A curious choice

Re: Our PLATES runneth over, Jan. 20.

I noticed that in your article concerning our plethora of specialty plates, nary a mention was made nor was there a picture of the "Choose Life" plate.

Granted, not all of the plates could be commented on since as the article pointed out there are so many agendas. However, to avoid mention of the 10th best selling plate of 2003 was interesting if not curious. I would suspect that your views _ maybe even subconsciously _ influenced not picturing and/or referring to the "Choose Life" plate.

Even if the plate had been (more properly) marketed under a "Choose Adoption" plug, I wonder if the plate would have been mentioned. I think it was left out for a reason by choice.

Kenn Sidorewich, OldsmarShare your opinions

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