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AARP Blasts "Future of Phone Service" Deregulation Bill on Gov's Desk



May 17, 2010

DENVER - One of Colorado's largest consumer groups is hoping Gov. Ritter will think twice before signing a bill passed in the eleventh hour of the legislative session last week. The bill would prevent the state public utilities commission (PUC) from regulating voice-over-internet-protocol, better known as VOiP (VOYP) phone services.

Steve Merrill, Colorado Springs, is a volunteer advocate with AARP Colorado. He says that even though the PUC does not currently oversee VOiP, the bill would take away the state's authority to be able to do so in the future - a move he says is not in the best interest of consumers.

"In the past, the PUC has played a vital and critical role in balancing the interests of the industries it regulates and the consumers that purchase the services."

The bill was supported by Comcast and Qwest, who insist it would level the competitive playing field and lead to more consumer choice and telecom investment in Colorado. Merrill says both things would be likely to happen anyway.

"That's a bogus argument on the part of Qwest Communications and the telecommunications industry. They will be here, they will invest and they will move forward."

The proposal, HB 1281, also makes an already confusing landscape for telecommunications customers even harder to navigate, Merrill says.

"It muddies already murky waters for consumers seeking help when they have issues with telecommunications services."

Merrill also worries that the bill could open the door to deregulation of traditional land-line service. The PUC currently regulates pricing and quality for land-line phone service; Merrill notes that VOiP is increasingly replacing land line service.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - CO