This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
When politicians introduce new legislation, the first opportunity for truth or deception comes when they give their bill proposals a name. So it is with a couple of bills quickly moving toward passage in the House and Senate that would reduce oversight of local telephone companies. The legislation is entitled, "Consumer Choice and Protection Act." A more-appropriate name for the bills would be the "Local Telephone Company Choice and Protection Act."
The bills would reduce the Public Service Commission's authority to regulate telephone companies such as Verizon, BellSouth, AT&T, etc. The companies say less regulation would allow them to become more nimble and result in increased competition, better service and, ultimately, lower rates for consumers. The phone companies have hired dozens of lobbyists to push the bills, which have garnered bipartisan support in both chambers.
If the legislation passes, which seems likely, only customers with "basic" land-line phone service would be regulated by the PSC. Anyone with a land-line phone with "extras" like call-waiting, or caller ID would be classified as "nonbasic" and excluded from PSC protection. Under current rules, phone companies are limited to annual rate hikes pegged at 1 percent above inflation for basic service.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.