May 10, 2011: The Give-Away to the Telecom Industry

  • May 10, 2011
Leah Steinberg

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2011

The Give-Away to the Telecom Industry, and

the Take-Away of Grandma’s Phone

MADISON – The Citizens Utility Board is calling on legislators to offer amendments to legislation that will deregulate telephone service, otherwise households that rely on basic phone service may see skyrocketing costs, poor service quality, and even loss of phone service entirely.

Senior citizens in Wisconsin largely prefer basic landline telephone service, and many Wisconsin families in rural areas have no choice other than landline service, due to spotty cell phone coverage and lack of other alternatives.  These households rely on basic landline phone service to reach out to family and friends, or to call 9-1-1.

The telephone deregulation legislation, 2011 special session AB 14, may be considered by the full Assembly as early as Wednesday, May 11.  The legislation, which has been worked on behind the scenes by AT&T and other telephone companies, would strip vulnerable families of their right to basic phone service at affordable prices.

The legislation has already been reviewed by assembly and senate committees that failed to adopt amendments that would help protect consumers from this industry push to increase profits and escape regulation.  Unless the bill is amended on the floor of the Assembly or the Senate, the deregulation legislation will have the fewest consumer protections of any similar legislation in the Midwest.

AT&T recently pushed similar legislation through other Midwest states but with more consumer protections built in.  For instance, Ohio legislation adopted just last year included backstop protections that would:

  • Cap the costs of basic service where there is little to no competition;
  • Require providers to maintain service quality; and
  • Restrict a provider from abandoning a service territory, allowing families to keep basic phone service until another provider is able to serve customers in the area.

Wisconsin’s families need at least the same protection as Ohio’s families.  We urge legislators to support amendments so that all Wisconsin households can reach out by phone to their friends and families.