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.