Ah, Qwest. It’s so many things to so many people. To one still-waiting wannabe Qwest customer in Hamilton, “it’s what you have to go through to get new phone service.” To Ravalli County’s road supervisor Mike Wiles, it’s the company that tears up county roads to bury new lines and then sticks the county with the road repairs. To Ravalli County Commissioners, it’s the company that still owes $16,000 to taxpayers who paid to fix one road that Qwest damaged.
Now, Qwest is the company that will share your account information with other companies. Qwest sent out notices in this month’s bill—a notice many customers likely tossed on arrival—describing Qwest’s intent to share your account information with other companies so as to provide you with even better service. This from the company that in 2001 had Ravalli County’s attorney investigating possible criminal charges against it.
The notice starts out harmlessly enough with the caveat that “The following information does not impact your Qwest bill” So far, so good. It’s followed with the more ominous: “Qwest has a long history of treating customer account information confidentially. We think that’s one reason you trust us.” Uh-huh.
The notice goes on to say that your account information may be shared with other Qwest-related companies. Information like the toll numbers you call, how many minutes you were on the phone, your calling and billing records, and other such information.
So, if you’re uncomfortable with the fact that your toll calls could be shared with other Qwest companies, read the fine print on the back of the notice, which says that not all shared information practices are included in the brochure and that in the future Qwest may change the way it shares information internally and outside the company.
Don’t like having your telephone billing record passed around like an open-party invitation? You’ve got until the end of this month to do something about it. Call 1-877-628-3732 to get off the list. Business customers must contact their Qwest representatives directly. If you don’t call within 30 days, steel yourself for more telemarketing calls.
While we’re on the subject of some of Americans’ least popular industries—such as public utilities, nuclear energy and insurance—a bill now before the U.S. Senate would limit the liability of nuclear plant operators in the event of a terrorist attack or a Chernobyl-like whoops! and shift much of that financial burden to the taxpayer. At the end of November, the U.S. House of Representatives quietly passed H.R. 2983—by voice vote and with virtually no debate, as most lawmakers had already left town for the Thanksgiving weekend—which extends the Price-Anderson Act for another 15 years. Price-Anderson, first passed in 1957 in an era when most Americans believed that nuclear energy was our safe, clean and efficient path to a brighter future, established a taxpayer-subsidized insurance plan for nuclear power plants, thus saving the nuclear industry billions of dollars each year in insurance premiums. In corporate parlance, it’s known as “externalization of costs.” To the rest of us, it’s more commonly known as corporate welfare.
So, how did nuclear industry lobbyists get this one under the radar? Just follow the money trail: In the last election cycle, Rep. Joe Barton (R–Texas), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, received $131,590 from electric utilities; the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) received $109,679 from them. So, what happened to all that talk last year about campaign finance reform?