Topeka — A proposal to deregulate AT&T for basic phone service was opposed Wednesday by state regulators and consumer advocates.
“There is only one thing this bill will do. It’s going to raise rates,” said David Springe, consumer counsel for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board.
“If you pass it, pass it knowing that for the elderly and people who can least afford it, you just raised their rates,” Springe told the House Energy and Utilities Committee.
Most phone services are already deregulated. But the cost of single-line and Lifeline, for low-income households, can only be increased each year by the amount of the increase in the Consumer Price Index.
Senate Bill 72 would eliminate those protections.
AT&T officials say by removing the regulations the company will be able to offer a broader array of services to those customers, and that competition will keep costs reasonable.
Christine Aarnes, chief of telecommunications at the Kansas Corporation Commission, said that wasn’t the case.
In other states, deregulation was followed by higher prices, she said. Springe argued there was no competition for single-line service to drive down costs. The Kansas chapter of AARP also opposes the bill.
The proposal has passed in the Senate by a 32-7 vote.