Originally published: May 26, 2011
Last updated: May 26, 2011 - 9:23pm
Many long-standing regulations on traditional landline telephones will be dropped under a bill signed by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) that is the first big rewrite of the state's telecommunications laws since 1994.
The law lowers the rates that telephone companies charge for use of each other's lines. It also reduces Public Service Commission oversight of landline phone service, which has been on the decline as consumers switch to wireless phones. The law eliminates all authority for the PSC to regulate rates over the price of basic phone service in areas with little or no competition. The Citizens Utility Board, a consumer advocacy group, opposed the action. Under the law, telecom companies have to maintain service through April 2013.
AT&T and other backers of the legislation said previous state telecommunications law was premised on a former monopoly for landline providers that had been broken up by cellular telephone companies. They say the legislation removes outdated regulations that require AT&T and other telecom companies to invest in copper-line technologies used for landline telephones, freeing up money to invest in new technologies such as wireless and voice-over-Internet (VoIP) phone services. But opponents say the proposal removes protections for consumers in rural areas where alternatives such as cell phones and broadband Internet aren't always available.
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