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Connecticut groups say landline service under seige
[April 23, 2013]

Connecticut groups say landline service under seige

Apr 23, 2013 (New Haven Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A coalition of Connecticut consumer, labor and environmental groups is urging state lawmakers to reject a bid to overhaul regulations regarding landline telephone service.

Members of the Don't Hang Up on Connecticut coalition say a trio of bills supported by AT&T now making their way through the General Assembly would gut consumer protections for the company's landline customers.

The groups will gather at the state Capitol today to release the findings of a 14-page report on the impact that the overhaul of telecommunications regulations in Connecticut would have on consumers.

Leaders of the coalition in Connecticut say the legislative efforts here are part of a larger national effort by a pro-business group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), to eliminate state oversight of local telephone service and effectively put an end to universal service, the basic menu of telecommunications offerings available to every resident.

"This is part of a national strategy by ALEC to advance a pro-corporate agenda at the expense of consumers," James Browning, regional director of state operations for Common Cause, said in a statement. "We've seen the destructive impact these measures have had in other states. AT&T should not be allowed to get away with it here in Connecticut." Browning said the three bills -- SB888, HB6401 and HB6402 -- closely resemble model legislation ALEC's legislative template used in 20 other states where telecommunications regulatory overhaul has occurred. In 17 of those 20 states, telecommunications rates have increase, and in some cases, the cost of service has doubled.

Coalition members contend that the bills would allow AT&T to eliminate local landline service in unprofitable areas on short notice. The groups say that 1.34 million Connecticut residents still rely on landline service.

"If AT&T is allowed to drop service in unprofitable areas at their sole discretion, if they're allowed to let service outages drag on for weeks with no consequences, if they're allowed to jack up rates -- of course they will," Daniel Ravizza of Connecticut Citizen Action Group said in a statement. "'Trust me' is not a good enough guarantee for Connecticut consumers." Chuck Coursey, a spokesman for AT&T in Connecticut, said the legislation currently being considered by state lawmakers was written and introduced by members of the General Assembly's Energy & Technology Committee.

"The fact is, modernizing our telecom rules this year will help encourage private investment, job growth and consumer choice at a time when Connecticut needs it most," Coursey said.

Call Luther Turmelle at 203-789-5706.

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