Take action against Senate Bill 135

style=”margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 13px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(243, 243, 245); line-height: 1.5em; color: rgb(58, 58, 60); font-family: Georgia; letter-spacing: normal;”>Dear Rural Assembly Member:

The Rural Assembly’s Rural Broadband Policy Group wants to make you aware of important and potentially damaging legislation that is moving rapidly through the Kentucky Legislature. 

The KY 2012 Senate Standing Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor will vote, Tuesday February 29, on a bill (SB 135that could leave rural Kentuckians without basic telephone service.  Senate Bill 135, which is being promoted by AT&T, would allow AT&T, Windstream, and Cincinnati Bell to end their obligation as “carriers of last resort.” After June 30, 2013, AT&T and other electing “Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers” (ILECs) would no longer be required to provide basic landline telephone service to all persons in a service area and Kentuckians would no longer be assured of access to reliable basic phone service. After that date, regardless of whether there are other options available for basic phone service in a community, and regardless of whether there is effective competition among suppliers, the obligation of an electing incumbent local exchange carrier to provide service would be gone.

We’d like to ask your help in:

Senate Bill 135 would:

  • Cause loss of service accessibility for low-and fixed-income Kentuckians
  • Potentially leave low-income and fixed-income Kentuckians without access to basic phone service
  • Lack of assurance that before the “carrier of last resort (COLR)” obligation is ended, that there is sufficient competition throughout each local exchange area so that each customer will have access to service providers and services options that are functionally equivalent, competitively priced, and comparable in quality to that currently provided by the incumbent telephone company,
  • Not assure customers that there will be sufficient providers in the area, or that they would have access to similar fairly priced, quality, basic telephone service that a company is currently providing.
  • Eliminate protection for customers against incumbent utilities and affiliated companies exercising market power to raise costs for basic services in an area where no unaffiliated competitor for basic service exists,
  • Leave customers at the mercy of a utility and its affiliated companies to raise the price for basic service in an area where no other competitor exists.
  • Possible “redlining” of populations or areas where service is more costly or the customer is higher-maintenance,
  • Possible “redlining” of populations or areas, such as poor and remote communities, where providing service is more costly or higher-maintenance. Therefore, possibly leaving the rural Kentuckians in most need, without access to basic telephone service.
  • Loss of Public Service Commission authority to investigate on its own motion, complaints regarding basic telephone service quality,
  • Strip the Public Service Commission, entity in charge of investigating customer complaints, of its authority to investigate complaints regarding basic telephone service quality and protect customers.
  • Possible loss of Commission control over carrier-to-carrier relationships, including the ability to set rates, terms and conditions for unbundled network elements, to arbitrate and enforce all interconnections agreements, and to adjudicate all carrier-to-carrier disputes including without limitation, complaints regarding any anti-competitive practices. For those competitive carriers using the incumbent utility network, the elimination of the carrier of last resort obligation could result in abandonment or retirement of wired connections, resulting in loss of access to customers by the competitors,
  • Strip the Public Service Commission of its authority to protect customers by setting fair rates, terms, and conditions; to arbitrate and enforce agreements, to adjudicate on anti-competitive practices by the providers. This also menas that carriers could decide to abandon or retire their wirelines, resulting in loss of access to customers by the competitors.
  • No “gatekeeper” function for the PSC to control when there is sufficient competition to allow the COLR obligation to be ended, nor to require it be resumed where competition ceases to exist.
  • Allow AT&T, Windstream, and Cincinnati Bell to cease acting as “carrier of last resort” merely because another service provider offers a voice service (and the other provider can be an affiliate), which does not assure that there is effective competition that will assure access to voice service that is functionally equivalent, competitively priced, and comparable in quality and range of basic services. Even if the June 30, 2013 deadline were removed.

The Rural Broadband Policy Group thinks this bill needs to be killed. 

For more information about the efforts of the Rural Broadband Policy Group, and about this specific issue, please contact Edyael Casaperalta at edyael@ruralstrategies.org.

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