Group Asks Speaker Nuñez to Pull AT&T-Generated Cable Deregulation Bill
Santa Monica, CA — The millions of dollars that AT&T has poured into lobbying in the last few months produced a huge jackpot in Sacramento this week, said the nonpartisan, nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave AT&T and smaller Verizon permission to raise telephone rates at will, even as a telecommunications deregulation bill — a bonanza for AT&T and a bane to consumers — sped toward passage in the state Senate, jammed with last-minute amendments.
In a letter sent to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, FTCR said:
"On Tuesday, Aug. 22, 35 pages of amendments shepherded through your office were approved in a final committee vote, even though the amendments were not made available to the public or to consumer groups for comment." The group asked that he pull AB2987, of which he is co-sponsor, for deeper consideration in the next legislative session. Click here to see the letter.
The bill would grant telephone companies and current cable television providers a statewide franchise, without statewide enforcement of consumer rights or terms of service.
"Localities, lacking the power granted by their current franchise rights, will have no incentive or avenue of appeal to safeguard customers from abusive service or deceptive sales of bundles of video, internet and phone services," said Judy Dugan of FTCR.
"FTCR’s efforts to see the amendments that were voted on Tuesday were brushed aside Monday, as Nuñez’ office, among others in the Capitol, said the amendments were ‘not available’, and calls were not returned," said Dugan.
AT&T, while publicly billing the deregulation as beneficial competition in the video market, has not promised any rate reductions or other specific consumer benefits. It has poured nearly $18 million into lobbying efforts over the last few months, and $500,000 into direct political contributions during this election cycle, noted FTCR. That does not include contribution pledges made during legislators’ mad dash of fund-raising during the last three weeks of the legislative session, which ends next Thursday. These contributions will not be known until after the hundreds of measures still coming to a vote are passed or killed.
FTCR supports Proposition 89, the Clean Elections Initiative, on the November ballot. The voter initiative would, through broad restrictions on campaign contributions and voluntary public funding of candidates, suppress the power of large special interests to influence legislation and public policy.
"The telecom deregulation bill is only one of many bills now being voted on in in response to special interests rather than the public good," said Dugan. "Proposition 89 would shift power from lobbyists back to voters."
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