Busy Signal on KY Phone Deregulation
FRANKFORT, Ky. - As the Kentucky General Assembly heads into its final month, one bill still in doubt is about telephone deregulation. Senate Bill 88 would unshackle phone companies from having to provide landline service in most areas of the state.
The phone companies say they need the freedom provided by deregulation to be able to invest more in broadband and Internet services. But many seniors, including Mary Love of Oldham County, are worried they will lose the guarantee of traditional landline phone service.
"Our better technologies today still are failing us, and my concern is for the folks who live back up in the hollers, particularly in eastern Kentucky," Love declared.
The legislation has passed the Senate but hasn't budged in the House. The group Citizens for a Digital Future claims "overly burdensome" telecom laws are causing Kentucky to fall behind other states when it comes to access to broadband technology.
A survey being released by AARP Kentucky today shows that 86 percent of its members have cell phones. But, according to Scott Wegenast with AARP, the survey also shows that seniors still value their traditional phone service.
"They may have a cell phone, but 82 percent are still using that landline and want to keep it. They have not 'cut the cord' yet," Wegenast remarked.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which supports the bill, noted that the legislation includes what it calls "special regulations" to ensure rural areas are not adversely affected by deregulation.
That's not comforting to seniors. According to AARP, two-thirds of its members "strongly oppose" the move to eliminate landlines. As Mary Love explained, the cell phone isn't enough of a security blanket.
"It can't be depended upon for emergencies and that's what folks of all ages, but particularly seniors, have that concern," she said.
Passed on Feb. 14 by the Senate, 24 to 13, the bill has not moved since being assigned to a House committee (Tourism Development and Energy) five days later.
See the bill (SB88) at lrc.ky.gov.
Full AARP survey results will be posted online today at states.aarp.org.