Monday, April 15, 2013

AT&T loses fight to shed itself of landline phone requirement in Ky.; Illinois next battleground

One of the bills to relieve telephone companies of the obligation to provide landline service in rural areas again failed to pass the Kentucky House in the recently ended legislative session. Now the focus turns to Illinois, Barbara Popovich writes for the Huffington Post. "Members of the Illinois legislature are being inundated with AT&T lobbyists pushing for similar deregulation, she writes. In Kentucky, AT&T promised to increase investments in wireless capability in exchange for no longer guaranteeing basic land line telephone service. But critics pointed to spotty cell phone service, combined with the burden on people who can't afford bundled packages offered by phone and cable companies."

Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, spearheaded the effort against AT&T, which he said used 24 lobbyists, robo-calls and newspaper and broadcast advertising. "Despite that, we prevailed," FitzGerald said. "We worked very well together, and with modest resources, fought a corporate juggernaut that has rolled through statehouses across the country. This was a joint effort to uphold the core principles of universal access, competition, interconnection, affordability, reliability, and safety that have been at the heart of national telecommunications policy for scores of years." (Read more)

Kentucky Senate Bill 88 would have allowed phone companies to stop providing service to new customers in unprofitable areas, or where comparable services, such as cellular service, are available. AT&T had argued the bill was necessary to improve broadband service, Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer report for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

For background on the issue, including a researcher who tracks it nationwide, click here. We have reported on the issue several times, most recently when the bill was being considered in Kentucky, and how AT&T was accused of using automated phone calls to threaten lawmakers opposing the bill. AT&T denied that.

No comments: