Presley pushes fight with AT&T over new law

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

JACINTO – Nettleton’s Brandon Presley knows how to pick a political fight.
Wednesday, he fired up the Jacinto Festival crowd about his latest challenge to a new state law stripping the Mississippi Public Service Commission of its regulatory power over communications giant AT&T.
Presley, Northern District PSC commissioner, said he’s fighting the law that allows “the phone company to raise your rates to whatever they want to.”
“Does anybody think that’s a good idea?”
The crowed bellowed back, “No.”
Then the firey, populist style speaker launched into criticism of the utility, saying its influence with the Legislature comes “just because they pass around money or fly you on jets or buy those big ribeyes.”
He also criticized legislators “who vote at 5 p.m. and at 6 p.m. they go and hold a fundraiser.”
“That’s wrong.”
He told the crowd that deep-pocketed corporations are shutting out the people’s voices with political donations.
“We have a coin-operated government,” Presley said.
He said his legal challenge is necessary because the new law violates the state constitution.
House Bill 825, which became law Sunday, removes the PSC’s authority to regulate local-only landline rates and to receive service and financial data from the telephone giant. It also removes AT&T’s requirement to be the carrier of last resort in rural areas that otherwise can’t get telephone service.
Earlier this week, the bill’s author, Rep. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, said the law is an effort to allow AT&T “to invest in the technologies the customers want.”