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Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kansas regulators, consumer groups oppose bill deregulating AT&T phone service

March 16, 2011

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— 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.

Comments

Jimo 3 years, 6 months ago

David Springe, consumer counsel for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board said, “If you pass it, pass it knowing that for the elderly and people who can least afford it, you just raised their rates."

Might I suggest that if protecting these groups were the priority that the State demand a subsidy program for qualifying customers instead of what Mr. Springe is demanding: subsidies for everyone, poor or wealthy.

Can there be anything more obvious than the fact that we cannot continue to provide welfare for the better off?

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WilburNether 3 years, 6 months ago

Um...The state already has "a subsidy program for qualifying customers." It's called "Lifeline."

And where is there "welfare for the better off" in telephone service? Hmmm?

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notajayhawk 3 years, 6 months ago

"In other states, deregulation was followed by higher prices"

Did those higher prices also include additional services?

"Springe argued there was no competition for single-line service to drive down costs."

Yeah. Unless you go to the dollar store or Wal-Mart and buy a cell phone for ten bucks.

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barlowtl 3 years, 6 months ago

Buying a cellphone won't help if you are on a lifeline. Must have land line for connection. The phone bill is often higher than the lifeline service. Noticed that AT&T is very busy right now raising rates on their cell phone & computer connections. Must be that time of the year.

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BigDog 3 years, 6 months ago

AT&T wants to be deregulated in the very rural areas of the state ..... areas most often a cellphone won't work in.

Funny thing is AT&T doesn't want to give up the universal access fee that we all pay on our bills to offset the higher costs of providing services to these areas.

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madameX 3 years, 6 months ago

How are additional services going to help people if they're priced out of having any service at all? And, as several folks have already pointed out, cell phones don't work so well in plenty of rural areas.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 6 months ago

"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."

Competition with whom? They have a monopoly on the landlines that they serve.

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Jake Esau 3 years, 6 months ago

The competition they're referring to is likely from cable companies and cell phones... both of which tend to have weak coverage in rural areas. In towns and cities there is competition, but in the rural areas, not so much.

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 6 months ago

We haven't had a land line with AT&T since all of the baby Bells were busted away 30 years ago. For the last few years we haven't even used that. Our current "house" phone is through the cable company. As a result I started to say that I didn't care but then I read the comments about rural areas and the impact this would have. Then I thought about those rural areas and remembered that they were the ones who put this bunch of jack wagons in power to begin with. Let them figure out for once that "elections have consequences".

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QuinnSutore 3 years, 6 months ago

It's such a shame that they raise those rates, considering we don't have a free market that lets people jump to a better provider! If only we lived in capitalist America...

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jb345 3 years, 6 months ago

How is AT&T raising rates any different than the oil companies raising the price of gas? You don't see oil companies getting slapped with price regulations so that the elderly can afford it. Maybe if there was some deregulation then AT&T would sink more money into this state for more cell towers so that we would have better coverage in rural areas. I've had AT&T (or southwestern bell) for the past 10 years. I think they offer great services and wouldn't live anywhere without U-verse service. I'm okay with my land line going up a few dollars a month--because it's practically been the same price for the past 10 years.

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Jonathan Kealing 3 years, 6 months ago

It's not a local story. The sources are all in the M&A world in New York. If we tried to cover a story like that, we couldn't do nearly the type of reporting job that you all deserve on what is an important story. Dealbook from the New York Times (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/) seems to be doing the best reporting on this story. Here's a sampling of the stories they've done in the past 24 hours. There are many, many more...:

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/big-mergers-often-pose-antitrust-concerns/

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/shares-of-sprint-down-on-att-deal-with-t-mobile/

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/how-the-iphone-led-to-the-sale-of-t-mobile-usa/

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/the-regulatory-risk-in-the-att-deal/

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/back-to-the-future-for-att/

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/goldman-conspicuous-by-its-absence/

I wish we could cover every story in the world, unfortunately this one makes the most sense to have a national news outlet cover. I'm sure we'll run AP stories as the deal goes through, but it's not something we can really spend local reporting resources one.

Jonathan Kealing

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Jonathan Kealing 3 years, 6 months ago

I don't know that we have. Maybe this is a good opportunity.

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HomeSlice 3 years, 6 months ago

I use Magic Jack and it suits my purposes very well. Highly recommended.

I carry a cell phone, but like the idea of a regular landline as a backup. I grabbed an old PC carcass and dedicated it to just this use. (Could have used any PC or laptop in the house with no problems, either). It sits in the basement, no monitor, mouse or keyboard and hums along. If the power fails, it just reboots and fires the service back up. Voice quality can be a bit choppy if there are large downloads happening at the same time, but it is more than acceptable.

All this for $20 a YEAR. My monthly cost for a 'regular' landline was $25+ through a cable package. The only downside to all this is the cable company constantly pestering me to sign up for landline service again. This must be their moneymaker these days.

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kinder_world 3 years, 6 months ago

I know of a lady in her 80's that lives in a rural community. She would in no way be able to use a cell phone, nor be able to hear on a cell phone. She would have to drive to the outshirts of town to have cell phone reception. Her income (or lack of income) has her living in low income housing. No car so she depends on goodness of others. Receives meals on wheels during the week and saves what she cannot eat at a meal so she will have leftovers for another meal. Her land line is a necessity. She does not require any more services on her phone line except for being able to call her doctor, pharmacy, or for help. To raise her rates would be a hardship.

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