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KRC Letter to House Economic Development Committee Members Concerning SB 99 Misinformation Posted: March 14, 2014
March 14, 2014
House Economic Development Committee
House of Representatives
Re: AT&T Bill SB 99 – Setting The Record Straight
I’m writing to you concerning two issues that were raised just before the Committee vote on SB 99 on March 13, because I believe that the Committee may have been misinformed regarding the impact of the bill on (a) the Public Service Commission’s power to resolve consumer complaints; and (b) the ability to reactivate dormant landlines and receive stand-alone basic local landline service.
SB 99 In Fact Ends Public Service Commission Power Over Consumer Complaints In Cities
At the end of the March 13 House Economic Development Committee meeting, Representative Webber asked AT&T's representative whether the Public Service Commission would lose jurisdiction over consumer complaints. The response was not accurate.
Representative Webber asked "I wanted to follow up on the… cause I heard this yesterday that the PSC is going to be removed from any consumer complaints. Can you address that for us?"
The response from the AT&T representative was "This bill doesn't do away with any of the PSC's jurisdiction over consumer complaints."
The reality is that in the House Committee Substitute on page 2, lines 6 through 8, strips the PSC of all regulatory power over consumer complaints against AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell in its urban phone exchanges. That subsection provides that:
“(a) The commission shall not impose any requirements or otherwise regulate the terms, conditions, rates, or availability of any retail service of the modifying utility[.]"
The bill elsewhere states that the commission may assist in resolving consumer complaints over mobile services and broadband, but there is not even that weak language exists for landline consumer complaints for urban exchanges.
Make no mistake – Any power of the PSC to order resolution, or even to assist in resolving consumer complaints over landline services for the cities in the AT&T, Windstream, and Cincinnati Bell service areas, is gone if SB 99 is approved.
Dormant Landlines In Rural Areas May Not Be Able To Reactivate Landline Service
Representative Stone asked, just before the committee vote, whether, if someone “moves back into my mother’s home…would they be able… to get a landline again?”
The AT&T Representative responded that “in that situation where the facilities exist today, somebody moving in there would have a right to basic local service and they could get that service.”
The reality is that the bill is ambiguous regarding this issue. The specific language is in Section 1(4)(b), which states that “In response to a request for service at a location to which the modifying utility has not installed landline facilities to provide basic local exchange service, the modifying utility” may offer wireless voice service and isn’t obligated to provide basic local exchange service.
What this means is that the obligation to provide basic local exchange service through a landline that has been dormant could be read to be limited to those landlines that were initially installed “to provide basic local exchange service” and no other features. While the AT&T representative may believe the effect of the bill is broader, and obligates AT&T, Windstream, and Cincinnati Bell to reinstate landline service for all existing landlines, the actual language could greatly reduce that obligation.
Modifying the language at p. 2 of 6 in this manner would fix that problem:
In response to a request for service at a location at which landline facilities do not exist as of the effective date of this act, to provide basic local exchange service, the modifying utility shall…..
Members of the House Economic Development Committee, I believe that both of these issues are as important to you as they are to me. I wanted to set the record straight before this matter comes to a floor vote.