They must be popping the corks at AT&T, Bellsouth, and other local phone services suppliers. And those corks are going directly in the eyes of the Alabama Public Service Commission and Alabama consumers.
The Alabama Phone Deregulation end game – ended.
On Thursday, the Alabama House approved the Senate phone deregulaton bill (sponsored by Rodger Smitherman, President Pro Tem of the Senate) that completely deregulates all land line service in Alabama. Not only that, it strips the Public Service Commission of any regulatory authority over prices, service, or quality.
Now, it goes to the governor to sign or not. Remember though, that the Legislature can override vetos by a simple majority, which pretty much renders a Governor's veto irrelevant.
This bill helps somebody – and it's not consumers in this state – particularly rural residents.
I was able to ask Congressman Artur Davis a queston about it in Birmingham on Friday, and that video is on the flip. I emailed the Ron Sparks campaign for a reaction (at least I contacted them in the only way possible, which is to fill out the “volunteer” form on the Web site and leave a comment – anyone know how a better way to contact the campaign? PLEASE?), but don't have a response yet. And, as you watch the Davis video, you'll see that we're actually waiting on a response from him as well.
Watch the video on the flip. And ask your legislator his he/she supported this legislation. Why or why not?
I fervently hope both Congressman Davis and Agriculture Commissioner Sparks come to the defense of the PSC and Alabama consumers. Haven't we seen enough of what happens in critical industries when government oversight is either lax or completely nonexistent?
This isn't an intellectual argument about “competition” and “private enterprise” for consumers – especially rural ones. Town people (sorry, it's what I grew up calling them) now don't understand that many, many rural areas don't have a choice of landline phone providers. We don't have cable or DSL. Even if we do, when the power goes off (happens a lot in the boonies), we can't rely on Skype or other VOIP providers. In rural and especially mountainous areas, there's no cell service either.
For a lot of people, reliable, affordable landline phone service isn't a convenience – is a necessity and a public health and safety issue. There's simply no other reliable way in an emergency to call for police, volunteer fire department, or an ambulance. And no other way to contact your parents or grandparents when you're far away and need to check on them.
Is this our future in Alabama? Government bought and paid for by the highest campaign contributor? A powerless, toothless Public Service Commission that can't even say for sure who has broadband coverage where? See our previous post about the PSC and the Alabama Broadband Initiative.
It's time for our candidates to step up and tell us where they stand on this issue!
C'mon guys (and maybe gals!)… we'll front page it when you do!