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Consumer Advocates: Put Phone Deregulation on Hold in KY

PHOTO: Consumer advocates are telling lawmakers to put phone deregulation legislation on hold. A bill, which has passed the Kentucky Senate, would let major phone carriers no longer provide landline service in some parts of the state. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: Consumer advocates are telling lawmakers to put phone deregulation legislation on hold. A bill, which has passed the Kentucky Senate, would let major phone carriers no longer provide landline service in some parts of the state. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
March 13, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Phone deregulation, which would allow major carriers to no longer provide landline service in some parts of Kentucky, has received a busy signal in the state’s House of Representatives since arriving from the Senate.

Consumer advocates say the legislation needs to remain on hold while the transition to an Internet protocol-based network can be tested.

"Deregulating basic service and eliminating the Public Service Commission's authority to assure highly reliable basic service is not a responsible course of action given what the FCC has laid out," says Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council.

AT&T, the driving force behind the legislation in Kentucky, has proposed to the Federal Communications Commission to test the transition away from traditional service in a rural part of Alabama and an urban part of Florida.

The proposed legislation in Kentucky would allow phone carriers to quit providing landline service in urban areas with more than 15,000 houses.

They would no longer have to supply the service to new homes or businesses statewide.

Mimi Pickering, a member of the Rural Broadband Policy Group, says consumers would lose needed protections.

"There would be real concerns about costs rising, about service reliability, and maintenance and timely repair," she points out.

AT&T has told Kentucky lawmakers it needs the freedom to shift money it now spends on traditional home phone service to its high-speed broadband infrastructure.

Pickering, who lives in Whitesburg, says those who oppose deregulation are not anti-technology.

"We are desperate to get really high-speed Internet and see that as one of the real solutions to transforming our economy,” she stresses. “But there is absolutely nothing in this bill that would make that a reality."

FitzGerald says if the bill passes, more than 11,000 households would immediately lose their assurance that they could continue to have a traditional home phone that they now have a right to receive.



Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY