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Ring-Ring: Consumer Groups Sound Alarm on Telecom Deregulation in CO

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March 25, 2014

DENVER - Having access to a telephone landline in Colorado is something we take for granted, but today state lawmakers are considering legislation that could change that. Taken together, four bills (HB 1328-1331) being heard today would reallocate money used for landline maintenance, remove regulation of cable phone services and deregulate landline service in Colorado.

According to Bill Levis, a former director of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, specializing in telecom, landlines are particularly important in this state.

"It's difficult for radio waves to get through the mountains, so that makes landlines more critical," he said. "There's no reason to deregulate. There's no indication that things aren't working well in Colorado."

Levis is also a volunteer legislative advocate for AARP Colorado. He and others point out that landline service is needed to be sure Coloradans can reach 911, and that many people use phone landlines for medical monitoring of things such as pacemakers, as well as home security systems.

In 2006 California deregulated its telephone market, and since then, the monthly cost of the service has increased by 260 percent. Levis said that in Colorado it's consumers who have the most on the line.

"Consumers have sort of been left out of this equation," he said. "All the companies and interest groups who are supportive of this deregulation are the providers themselves."

If the deregulation legislation passes, Levis said, Colorado consumers would be unable to lodge complaints with the state about landline service. He said consumer complaints provide a window into what's happening with telecommunications services.

Supporters of the legislation say it's needed for modernization and money is needed to bring broadband into Colorado.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - CO