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Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Carter: 3 issues that matter (to me)

When it comes to national political issues, sometimes my eyes glaze over. I know foreign policy, free trade and the like are important, and I do my best to stay informed about them (it's part of the gig, after all). I suspect a lot of other people feel the same way. Perhaps that's why we tend to focus most of our time arguing about social issues with responses that are very emotional, rather than based in policy issues.

There are definitely political issues I feel strongly about, but the truth is I feel like most of the decisions made in Washington often have very little bearing on my day-to-day life. This might be very millennial (i.e. selfish) of me, but I've been thinking about a few things that, superficial as they might seem (and probably are), would get me to fully throw my support behind a candidate simply because they would make my daily life a little more pleasant.

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Break up the DirecTV "monopoly" on out-of-market NFL games. There's actually a class-action lawsuit, filed last year on behalf of a San Francisco sports bar, challenging the exclusivity of the deal between America's most popular sports league and the satellite television provider. No other sports league has an exclusive deal with a single provider to broadcast out-of-market games. Back in 2002, several cable providers tried to obtain rights to carry NFL Sunday Ticket on a nonexclusive basis, but the NFL told them they wouldn't accept their bids.

Two years ago, the NFL and DirecTV re-upped their deal for a cool $12 billion through 2022 in the U.S. (Incidentally, there is no exclusivity agreement in Canada, where Sunday Ticket is available via multiple outlets.) This would-be monopoly allows DirecTV to charge pretty much whatever they want for the service, including incredibly high prices to restaurants and bars, depending on their size.

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Breaking up the exclusive deal and allowing more providers the opportunity to carry the package, driving the price down, would be great, but I'd like to see someone take it a step further and require different package options. For example, if you're an Oakland Raiders fan living in Maryland, you could buy a "season pass" to get every Raiders game for a fraction of the cost of getting access to every single game. Better still, a la carte purchasing options similar to the on-demand pay-per-view service for movies and sporting events like boxing offered by your cable provider would be ideal. There have to be some politicians in Washington who want to watch another team other than the Redskins without having a dish, right?

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A Do Not Call registry that actually works. I'm borrowing from Times columnist Bill Kennedy here, who brought this up in a piece a few weeks back. My cellphone number has been on the Do Not Call registry since 2004. And yet, at least once or twice a week, I get a phone call from an out-of-state number — rarely the same — with an automated message on the other end. (I also seem to be getting calls from local numbers, some that are similar to mine, but they never leave a message or speak when I answer.)

I have no idea how many telemarketing calls I get on my home phone. We have a landline, but it basically exists for an emergency (and keeping it bundled with cable and internet actually keeps our bill lower, figure that one out) and the lone phone connected to it has the ringer turned off. When we had an answering machine, it was constantly filled with telemarketing calls and that was it, so we got rid of it.

What I do know is the Do Not Call registry worked for a time, but then spammers and scammers who weren't going to follow the rules anyway started robocalling everyone. A few members of Congress have actually proposed legislation, awesomely named the Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones (ROBOCOP) Act, which would require the telephone companies to offer free access to robocall blocking technology that exists but, they say, is not widely available or easy to use. Thus far, the bills are out there, but no action has been taken on them.

Get rid of laws that don't allow beer and other alcohol to be shipped directly to you. A few years ago, Maryland and numerous other states lifted laws that blocked shipping wine directly to consumers. If you're a wine lover, this is wonderful. Recently, I signed my wife up for a wine club as a birthday gift, and they continue to send her bottles ever few months or so based on her tastes. She loves it, because she rarely gets a bottle she doesn't enjoy and gets to try a variety of different wineries.

Me? I'm not a wine drinker. Rather, I have an affinity for dark, malty beers. Unfortunately for me, if you go to most bars or liquor stores in Maryland, even with the craft beer explosion of the past decade, you'll mainly find the taps and/or coolers dominated by macrobrews, overly hoppy IPAs, and what seems to be an increasing prevalence of ciders and fruity beers. Most retailers' distributors also don't allow you to get any beer you want to try. For me, there's a brew out of Michigan I tried once upon a time in Pittsburgh that I've only been able to find one other time at a retailer here in Maryland, and that store no longer carries it because its distributor changed.

So I looked up direct-shipping beer clubs similar to my wife's wine club, and while they do exist, they don't ship to Maryland (or most other states) because of archaic laws set up at the state level when Prohibition was repealed 80-plus years ago. I don't get it. What makes wine OK to ship but beer not? Beer, apparently, needs a better lobbyist.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.


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