We've blogged extensively about the bill to deregulate phone service in rural Alabama. It pretty well completes the defanging of Alabama's Public Service Commission and appears to be pure gravy for AT&T. Inexplicably, Lowell Barron (D, Fyffe) is allowing it to come to the floor of the Senate today.
“They don't want anybody telling them what their rates are going to be. They don't want anybody checking on their service quality,” said Darrell Baker, director of the PSC's telecommunications division.
Supporters said competition from companies offering cell phones, or phone service over broadband internet, would ensure competitive prices. “I have no doubt about that,” said Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, who said more and more landline customers are switching to alternatives such as cell phones.
Does Sen. Barron think AT&T is lobbying so hard for this bill because deregulation will force them to lower phone rates? No, Lowell Barron has been around too long for that. AT&T thinks the rural market will bear higher rates — a goodly percentage of them have no alternative service so they have no choice but to pay whatever the company says — and they want to get out from under the PSC so they can raise those rates.
Where is the benefit to taxpayers in this legislation? I don't see any and I hope the other Senators agree that deregulating utilities in the middle of a recession is dumb as dirt.