We’ve heard it all before:
Postcrescent: A bill that would deregulate Wisconsin's telecommunications industry would lead to better Internet access or sky-high phone bills.
Take special notice of the term “competitive balance” in the following:
Providers (said) the bill would lead to competitive balance in the industry, wider broadband access and create tens of thousands of jobs. Opponents fired back that those claims are wildly exaggerated and that the measure would actually leave customers vulnerable to exorbitant rate increases and possibly with no phone service at all.
Again, who is Walker serving, the constituents, or big business to the detriment of his constituents? The following section pretty much shows Walker backing higher consumer rates, removing provider oversight, ignoring consumer complaints and giving up rural area internet access. Oh, and it’s backed by the industry…take a deep breath before reading:
Written at the request of Gov. Scott Walker and backed by industry powers such as AT&T Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, the measure is packed with technical jargon. Essentially, the Public Service Commission could no longer set telecommunication rates, perform audits of providers or investigate consumer complaints … be prohibited from regulating data services such as high-speed Internet service. Providers would no longer be required to supply the commission with their prices and terms of service. They also would not have to provide service throughout a territory after 2013.
Could you have imagined anything more blatantly crass than this corporate wish list? The real world implications are jaw dropping for consumers, and a monetary giveaway and shift of the public’s wealth to the telecoms. Who's to blame?
The bill's main Senate sponsor, Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee, promised the bill would lead to a more competitive marketplace.
In a repeat of the jobs promises made in 2007 (full story and links here), when the cable industry was deregulated at the request of AT&T, they assume Wisconsin didn’t learn its lesson the last time:
AT&T Wisconsin President Scott VanderSanden estimated the bill could lead to 50,000 jobs kept or created across a wide swath of sectors in the state. "The bill is practical. It includes a lot of common sense," VanderSanden said.
Communications Workers of America's Rob Boelk (said) big providers have no local loyalty, and if the bill passes no one would be able to stop them from raising rates by dozens of dollars a year just to price themselves out of the archaic landline business. He scoffed at VanderSanden's 50,000-job figure. He said the bill could cost jobs.
Kira Loehr, an attorney with the Citizens Utility Board, said no state oversight could lead to exorbitant rates, especially for rural and elderly customers who might be forced to give up their trusted landlines for more expensive Internet-cable-phone bundle packages. "Not everyone wants to bundle," she said. "The cost could go through the roof."
She also questioned how state lawmakers would know if broadband access was improving because providers would no longer have to give information to the state.
How about that? You would hope at least one Republican lawmaker might consider that.