Letters to the editor Sept. 16

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Going against the grain

Last summer, a group of the country’s largest telecom providers, including CenturyLink, filed a petition with the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC, to cut-off access competitive broadband providers have to portions of their networks. Independent broadband providers like Blackfoot Communications rely on portions of CenturyLink’s network to provide network connections to thousands of business customers.

Once the petition was filed, Blackfoot and many other competitive broadband providers lobbied the FCC opposing the petition. Blackfoot was no match for the large, well-oiled lobbying-machine of the nation’s largest telecom providers. Consequently, getting Republican members of Congress to weigh-in against the interests of the largest telecom companies was surely a fool’s errand — or was it? By early summer, competitive broadband providers — having met with dozens of Congressional offices — had given up on Republican support until one Congressman asked a seemingly innocuous question during an FCC oversight hearing.

The questioner asked the FCC Chairman if he was aware that the Small Business Administration had concerns about the negative impact the petition would have on small businesses. The question surprised the FCC Chairman who indicated his agency was trying to work through those concerns. The congressman emphasized that he hoped the FCC would be particularly mindful of the impact the proceeding could have on small businesses nationwide.

What is noteworthy about that question was that it came from the ONLY Republican in the House of Representatives to go on record against the nation’s largest telecom providers and in favor of small businesses. That member of Congress was Greg Gianforte. His willingness to ask the question encouraged other Republican members to weigh-in with the FCC against the petition. Soon afterward, most of the petition was withdrawn, giving providers like Blackfoot the ability to continue to provide affordable services to Montana’s businesses.

Out in Washington, it can be gutsy to take a stand going against the grain. When taking such a stand is the right thing to do, a word of thanks is warranted, regardless of politics: thank you Congressman Gianforte for your willingness to take a stand for competitive broadband providers and small businesses.

—Jason Williams is CEO of Blackfoot Communications

Bennett for Secretary of State

It seems that everyone in Montana except Cory Stapleton knows that he is unqualified to fill any elected position. Stapleton seems either incompetent, corrupt or possibly both. Cory has done damage during the short time he has been in this office. He openly violates the law requiring he live in Helena. He improperly uses a state-owned vehicle and fuel to go home frequently. He claimed less than 0.1% error in voting was proof of massive voter fraud. He awards contracts to friends. Etc.

What Montana needs is a person working to make voting accessible, fair, transparent and secure, a person who wants to keep public lands in public hands — a person like Bryce Bennett. Bryce will work to keep dark money out of Montana, to improve voting equipment state wide, to improve the voting experience and to prevent hacking of our elections, to make all functions of the Secretary of State’s office easily accessible and user friendly.

What Montana doesn’t need is a Secretary of State who voted to give $8 million of Montana’s tax dollars to build a wall in Arizona – a person like Scott Sales.

Vote Bryce Bennett for Secretary of State.

—C. Burt Caldwell, Missoula

Veterans with chronic pain

I read the recent letter from a local veteran followed by an article about the volume of Oxycodone pills made and distributed over the past 10 years. I would like to point out a few things.

As a veteran with chronic pain issues, I fought the VA over and over to get pain treatment including many fights with doctors over my insistence in staying on morphine rather than Oxycodone, the new magic pill. At a few points I was taking six times the lethal dose daily (often closely followed by a new doctor suddenly cutting off pain medication and offering yoga or Cognitive Behavior Modification instead, or nothing!)

I recently went through this again as the newest “crisis” led to a pharmacy doctor who stepped in and decided I should be using less than 20% of the dose I was on. So a six month taper down began and another round of yoga/CBM suggestions, which resulted in daily withdrawal symptoms, depression and uncontrolled pain. After a month of this I simply did my own detox and reduced my use to the dosage she considered “safe.” So instead of suffering for months it was a few weeks and I was back to “normal” which for me is enough pain to inhibit my social life and reduce my ability to accomplish tasks like cooking meals, doing my laundry, etc., but not enough pain to drive me to suicide as too many veterans do.

I credit this to my use of morphine and not oxy. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but personally it was/is morphine and marijuana that lets me live with a bit of dignity.

Oxycodone drove me to using heroin and did inestimable damage in my life. So I suggest when we fine those Big Pharma corporations for their part in promoting the epidemic, and that those who suffered because of their irresponsibility be compensated, our families compensated and not simply put the money in the general fund to finance more for-profit treatment centers that only work in about 15% of addicts.

I keep hearing from other veterans who cannot get medication for chronic pain and yet no substitute aside from yoga classes or feel-good counseling. Maybe some of that cash could be used to pay for a serious examination by the VA into cannabis as treatment for chronic pain. And if a veteran is in pain and over 50, I would suggest the untreated pain is a far bigger threat than addiction for the few years we have left.

Veterans don’t take their own lives in record numbers because they are ashamed of their addiction, they do so to end their pain.

—Robert Petersen, Evergreen

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