Telecomm deregulation becomes first bill to pass both chambers

03/02/2015 11:23 PM

FRANKFORT – Legislation to reform telecommunication regulations in the commonwealth became the first bill to be passed by both the House and Senate during the 2015 General Assembly.

House Bill 152, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, was passed by a 30-3 vote on Monday night by the Senate.

The bill, known as the “AT&T bill”, would remove requirements that telephone companies offer basic landline service in urban areas.

Sen. Paul Hornback who sponsored similar legislation the past three years, says that the bill is about bringing technology Kentucky into the 21st century, and the state has paid a price with the bill not becoming law the past three years.

“You know, this bill, and holding it back for two or three years, it’s untold how many millions and billions of dollars we’ve lost in investments in the state,” said Hornback, R-Shelbyville. “It keeps Kentucky behind because we didn’t have the investment here to attract more businesses to have a better communications network.”

Hornback said the two keys differences with HB 152 and past telecom reform bills is that HB 152 contains language that represents an agreement struck last year between AT&T and a previous opponent of the legislation, the Kentucky Cable Telecommunication Association.

The legislation also contains stronger language to protect consumers, Hornback said. It would give rural customers 60 days – rather than the 30 days outlined in other proposals – to transition back to landline telephone service from a newer technology should they desire to do so.

HB 152 also prevents telecommunication companies from reclassifying rural areas to urban areas in order not to provide basic landline service.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, who voted against the proposal, said that the legislation is a disguised form of deregulation.

“This is a deregulation bill, that is what this is all about,” Webb said. “And when the Kentucky safeguards, the PSC, and all of those are removed, that’s just one step closer to this monopoly who’s doing quite well.”

AT&T Kentucky President Hood Harris testified before the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Labor earlier in the day saying that it’s all about doing what the consumers are asking for.

“Consumers are demanding new technology and this bill will allow investment in new technology consumers are demanding,” Harris said.

The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Steve Beshear who is expected to sign the bill into law.


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