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Alarm Industry Sounds Alarm over Phone Deregulation in KY

March 4, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. - The home-security industry is sounding the alarm about deregulating phone service in the Commonwealth.

The Kentucky Senate on Monday approved what's become known as the AT&T bill, making it the first bill to land on the governor's desk this legislative session. The bill frees the big phone companies from having to provide traditional landline service in urban areas and allows them to avoid stringing new landlines in rural Kentucky.

Alarm Industry Communications Committee attorney Ben Dickens said that could adversely impact thousands of consumers and businesses that rely on alarm monitoring and other life-saving services.

"The FCC has a pending proceeding right now looking at these very issues," Dickens said, "and a big focus is 9-1-1."

The trade group also claimed that robust competition does not exist to ensure reliable services at reasonable rates to consumers. However, the telecommunications industry convinced lawmakers that deregulation is needed to increase investments in broadband.

"We're already behind, we're falling further behind every day," said Hood Harris, president of AT&T Kentucky, "and we'll continue falling further behind until we encourage this investment to come to Kentucky by modernizing our laws."

During committee testimony, Harris did not provide lawmakers estimates on what new investments would be made. The Senate passed the bill 30-3 on Monday, a week after the House gave its approval 71-25.

Gov. Steve Beshear said he will sign the bill because he expects it to spur new investments and because it provides "the necessary consumer protections." However, Dickens said consumers should be worried about reliability.

"There are distinct life-safety issues that rear themselves," he said, "when you change out a copper network without due consideration to what network features are required to make sure that the customers that pay for the alarm service get what they paid for."

With deregulation, AT&T could immediately stop offering basic phone service to new and existing customers in the state's urban areas, from Louisville to towns as small as London and Nicholasville.

The text of the bill, HB 152, is online at lrc.ky.gov.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY