Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Telecom update

Well after thoroughly studying the massive telecommunications bill, HB 789, I have some good news. No, not for you SBC. When a bill gets voted out of committee, the text of the version voted out, along with an analysis of that version, must be published - seen here. However, the analysis must accurately portray what's in the bill - otherwise it can be killed on points of order. Needless to say the analysis is wrong. I don't know if they analyzed one of the many committee substitutes that were presented to the committee, but the clerk's an idiot and royally screwed up on this one.

Since I don't like this bill, and it has many points of order on which to kill the bill, I might just do that. Well, not me personally, but I want to get the ball rolling on it. I would think that a bill like this wouldn't even get out of committee, but since SBC supports it - which means that CWA blindly supports it simply because SBC is unionized, regardless of the bill's impacts on, say, every person who owns a home phone - that means the bill will usually go through. The Republicans don't have enough guts to stand up to SBC, and the Democrats don't have a spine - read: they won't stand up to labor on this, even though this has nothing to do with labor but with consumer protection. Sheesh. So that's why I want to act on this one.

Anyways, now the fun part. The bill does this:


  • Grants phone companies full deregulation on January 1, 2008. But they must first lower the rates for long distance intrastate (meaning within the state) phone calls to equal long distance interstate (meaning between the states) phone calls. Right now a phone call from one Texas city to another costs more than a phone call from one Texas city to another across the country, simply because intrastate rates are so high (this has a lot to do with the fees that Texas charges). So if companies make their rates for intrastate long distance phone calls equal to interstate rates by January 1, 2008, then they can charge whatever they want, without any caps on rates. Yeah I don't fully get the logic on that one either.

  • Many consumer protections such as those against "cramming" are eliminated. Cramming happens when a phone company tries to cram many services together into a small number of fees, but increasing the fees. This is usually done without the customer's knowledge or consent.

  • In perhaps the sneakiest maneuver, the bill replaces "customer household" with "customer" when dealing with lifeline services, which are assistance programs to lower income folks that usually cut their bill in half. To qualify for a lifeline program, you have to qualify for public assistance programs like Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc.

    But the change doesn't seem like a big deal, right? Well, it is since it makes the customer have to be the recipient him- or herself of public assistance programs. But parents whose children are on Medicaid usually don't get Medicaid themselves; it's just their kids who get it. Same goes for Food Stamps. So, under HB 789, since the name of customer on a phone bill doesn't match up with the recipient of public assistance program, the household won't qualify for lifeline programs. Sneaky, sneaky.

  • This version does not ban municipal wireless. However, Phil King is interested in introducing an amendment tomorrow morning to do so. Apparently he was just hoping to avoid public debate over it.

  • Currently, dominant carriers are required to give discounts to libraries, educational institutions, and other providers of distance learning. This bill will discontinue that.



The bill does a lot of other things, such as no longer capping hotel and motel calls at 50 cents a piece and "bundling" now-basic services like call waiting, but it's massive. If you want the full low-down, then please e-mail me.

22 Comments:

At 9:50 AM, Blogger imasuit said...

I know it's a longshot that Craddick will sustain points of order based on an inaccurate committee analysis of a bill, but I feel like I have to at least try - I mean 85% of the analysis is wrong. The unfortunate part is that I don't think anyone will vote against it, let alone raise my points of order. Well, I just hope the Senate kills it.

 
At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the analysis - on a bill like this it is very hard to get a real understanding because the only people who come into legislative offices to talk about it are the opposing corporations.

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger Gritsforbreakfast said...

Great job, now can somebody please tell me what the Puente/Truitt amendment language does?!

I was really unhappy to see Puente and McLendon shilling for SBC, and also Patrick Rose's vote to table Garnet Coleman's amendment. Coleman, Turner, Hochberg, and Baxter were good on our side, and I was glad to see Grusendorf, Hughes, Krusee and Reyna voting with the good guys. Finally, I thought Truitt's original proposed amendment was a genuine good faith compromise that I really appreciated. But now I don't understand the language of what they finally came up with.

 
At 11:07 PM, Blogger Adina said...

Our blog post at SaveMuniWireless.org:
http://savemuniwireless.org/blog/000817.html

Esme Vos post:
http://www.muniwireless.com/archives/000620.html

Bill Language
http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/cgi-bin/db2www/tlo/amndsrch/amndsrch.d2w/report?TYPE=B&LEG=79&SESS=R&CHAMBER=H&BILL_TYPE=B&BILL_SUFFIX=00789

Bullet point summary

Municipal networks --Rep. Puente as amended by Rep. Luna

* All cities who provide Internet access by Sept 1, 2006 grandfathered
(but must be free if not charged for in past)
* All cities that submit a plan for internet access by June 15, 2006
grandfathered -- even if deployment begins later than September 1
* All cities currently charging for Internet Access grandfathered
* Public/private partnerships don't fall under the ban on cities
charging -- a city can enable a private ISP (or presumably a nonprofit)
to provide service and charge for it
* PUC to study Municipal provision of Internet Access
* Cities must show they have the financial and managerial expertise to provide service before providing it
* The legislature to revisit Municipal service in the next session

 
At 11:17 PM, Blogger Adina said...

Turner was great in calling the hypocrisy of the incumbent telcos. He pointed out the facts that others, leery of offending the big boys, tiptoe around.

* Incumbents have no trouble accepting hundreds of millions of dollars of government subsidy, but shrinks from potential competition from tiny rural towns.
* Incumbents are simply not providing service in many regions. Their position is "if we can't provide service, nobody can."

 
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