Except among lobbyists.
Dubbed the "full employment for lobbyists bill," House Study Bill 590 has received scant attention from most lawmakers. However, more than 40 lobbyists, including six from AT&T are registered on the bill.
"While little attention has been given to it, you'd be hard pressed to find a Commerce Committee member in either chamber who has not been lobbied -- likely multiple times -- on this," said
"This is a big deal," added Rep.
"That will be the beginning of the buzz factor," Carroll predicted.
Led by AT&T, some, but not all, telecommunication companies are pushing to have
However, people age 65 and older are more likely than any other age group to have landline telephone service in their home, Carroll said. They rely on basic local phone service as a lifeline to family, medical and other life necessities.
However, the industry warns that if regulation is left to the Iowa Utilities Board,
Carroll is concerned that without the IUB's involvement, Iowans lose their consumer protection.
"Regulation is consumer protection," according to Kressig, who said he hasn't taken a position on HSB 590.
The IUB, which took a look at deregulation last year, appears to agree that it should be involved in resolving consumer complaints as well as disputes between carriers that could increase the cost of telephone service.
While the industry is seeking "regulatory certainty," Carroll said
VoIP is an alternative to traditional wireline local exchange service that when purchased on a stand-alone basis can, in some cases, cost twice as much as traditional wireline service. VoIP cannot be considered an economic substitute for stand-alone basic local service, according to
Consumers living on low incomes, in rural communities, or elsewhere could be abandoned or forced into unaffordable phone plans simply to stay connected to family, medical, and other life necessities, the group said.
The bill was introduced last year, but no action was taken after the IUB opened a Notice of Inquiry process. It received 31 sets of written comments from 15 companies. The majority, it said, favored a "technology-neutral" approach to regulation. HSB 590 would create an uneven playing field because VoIP and traditional service providers would be treated differently, according to the utilities board.
Support for the bill is unlikely to break along party lines, they say. Lawmakers whose districts are served by small, rural telephone companies and cooperatives may be more likely to oppose HSB 590. Lawmakers from communities with more telecommunications options may support it.
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