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Groups Consider Bill To Deregulate Basic Phone Service a 9-1-1 Call

February 27, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Kentuckians who live in rural areas, the elderly or those getting by on fixed or low incomes could lose their basic phone service under legislation being considered by state lawmakers. Senate Bill 135 would deregulate that service, giving telephone companies the right to opt out of providing it to some areas.

Mimi Pickering, director of Appalshop's Community Media Initiative, says that would amount to hanging up on thousands of Kentuckians who have no other options.

"A landline with the basic service rate is really a lifeline; not everyone has a home computer or can afford broadband, and in many areas neither broadband or cell service is available."

Pickering says weighing profitability when it comes to basic telephone service is putting dollars ahead of sense, and sets a bad precedent.

"If the providers are saying that it's not profitable to provide phone service in these areas, are they going to say the same thing about broadband services? Are they going to say the same thing about cellular services?"

Pickering adds that before the phone industry is deregulated further, Kentucky should examine the effects of deregulation measures put in place six years ago.

"Those things are supposed to foster competition, they're supposed to reduce rates, they're supposed to bring in more providers to given areas. I don't know that we see evidence of those things happening in alot of rural areas."

Some phone industry executives have labeled basic phone service "a relic of a bygone era," and say they need to shift resources to cell phone and broadband communications. The Kentucky Resources Council is concerned that the bill would strip the Public Service Commission of its powers to start investigations into local service issues, such as availability and cost.


Tom Joseph, Public News Service - KY