Tag Archives: consumer choice

AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Blocked by DOJ

PBS Nightly Business Report
August 31, 2011

The giant merger between AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile got disconnected today. Susie, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block this $39 billion deal.

But in the end, the government called the deal bad for consumers, saying “price, quality and innovation would be diminished if the merger between the number two and number four wireless carriers took place.”

Now today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is the biggest challenge yet to this merger, which has faced earlier criticism. The FCC, for one, echoed concerns about competition. AT&T (NYSE: T) stock did fall on the news, down almost 4 percent today. The bulls, though, came calling for Sprint, the competitor here, sending its stock up nearly 6 percent.

AT&T (NYSE: T) tied up its merger with T-Mobile with a pretty political bow. There were promises to build out wireless broadband in rural America, an Obama administration priority. Labor unions were part of the team, 5,000 call center jobs would be brought back to the United States.

But today, Justice Department anti-trust lawyers bucked the political pressure and decided four mobile phone companies was as low as they would go.

There’s a quip from a famous old anti-trust lawyer that used to say the difference between Republicans and Democrats after all the fancy econometrics is Democrats want to see four competitors and Republicans are satisfied with three. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s where we’ve gotten with this case, is a determination that we need to at least now have four national players with this level of competition.

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Governor Walker: Signs telecommunication modernization bill into law

Cullen Werwie
May 24, 2011

Governor Scott Walker signed SS SB13 into law today which is aimed at modernizing Wisconsin’s telecommunications infrastructure.

“This law will allow the telecommunications industry to better serve Wisconsin’s consumers and it will spur economic growth and job creation,” Governor Scott Walker said. “I thank Senator Rich Zipperer and Representative Mark Honadel for their leadership on this bipartisan piece of legislation.”

SS SB13 expands consumer access to modernized telecommunications services including internet and broadband, fosters competition for services, streamlines Wisconsin’s outdated regulatory environment by recognizing technological advancement in the industry, and expands economic opportunities for jobs in advancing telecommunication fields.

Wis. Auto Title Loan Ban Could Be Lifted

Associated Press
Channel 3000
May 13, 2011

Auto title loans would again be legal in Wisconsin under a reversal of current law approved by the Legislature’s budget committee.

The change approved Thursday by the Joint Finance Committee would still have to be approved by the full Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker before it would take effect.

A ban on auto title loans was not included in the final version of a bill then-Gov. Jim Doyle signed last year, but he put it in place through the creative use of his veto.

The committee voted without debate to once again allow auto title loans, with restrictions under an 11-5 vote.

Telecom deregulation bill passed by the state Senate

By Mary Spicuzza
WI State Journal
May 11, 2011

A bill to deregulate Wisconsin’s telecommunications industry passed the state Senate on Wednesday.

Argument over the legislation broke out largely along party lines, with Republicans saying it would bring better Internet access and more competition among businesses and Democrats arguing it would lead to higher rates and worse service.

“This legislation ensures that we are not playing favorites among technologies,” said state Sen. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee.

Zipperer, the bill’s main Senate sponsor, said corporate competition would help the state advance technology and move on from the “monopoly era” when one company had control of the industry. He and other Republicans said consumers would be better served if the industry is deregulated.

But state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and some other Democrats argued the measure would leave customers vulnerable to rate increases and worse phone and Internet service.

“The service quality will become poorer and poor and the price will be higher and higher,” she said.

Vinehout also argued that rural areas will be particularly hard hit by the measure, and warned GOP lawmakers were pitting urban against rural.

“We’re picking winners and losers,” she said.

Democrats offered numerous amendments to the bill to include some consumer protections, but they were rejected by the GOP.

Zipperer and bill supporters argue that the legislation is long overdue, saying it would be the first changes to the state’s telecommunications rules in about 20 years.

During the floor debate, the Republican senator praised former state Sen. Jeff Plale, who had pushed for deregulation during the last session.

But state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said Plale’s telecommunications legislation is part of why he was able to defeat the Democratic incumbent from South Milwaukee in the primary election. Larson sai dhte bill was “put together in secrety behind closed doors” and “cut off regular folks.”

Vinehout agreed and said the bill, which is backed by powerhouses like AT&T Wisconsin, was effectively drafted by industry lobbyists.

Under the bill, the Public Service Commission could no longer determine telecommunication rates, audit providers or investigate complaints from consumers about their service.

The commission also would be prohibited from regulating additional services like high-speed Internet and broadband.

The measure passed 25-8 on a bipartisan vote. It now heads to the state Assembly.

Lawmakers find time to tackle economic growth

By Tom Still
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
May 7, 2011

A bill that would modernize Wisconsin’s telecommunications laws and open the door for investment in improved broadband and wireless networks was the topic of public hearings last week before Assembly and Senate committees. While some details remain to be worked out, lawmakers appear on their way to embracing a plan that would spur economic growth – particularly in rural areas where e-commerce, telemedicine and distance learning are more concepts than reality.

Traditional phone companies are regulated under rules that stem from an era when telecommunications was defined as two-way, voice-grade, analog wireline service. In short, telecom was a plain black telephone hanging on the wall.

Today, telecom is defined broadly to reflect a tidal wave of change in the age of digital computing and the Internet. The early 21st century meaning of telecom is the transmission and distribution of multiple forms of data – voice, text, video, images, music and more – through a variety of means.

Rethinking regulatory barriers tied to the landline era is part of Wisconsin’s effort to ensure that its telecom systems are world-class and that all regions of Wisconsin, from its major cities to its rural areas, have a chance to compete in the global marketplace.

If the reform package passes, Wisconsin could see job growth across a number of business sectors due to opportunities created by better telecom connections.

To read the entire article, click here.

WCCC Testimony in Favor of Special Session Assembly Bill 14

By Marvin Walker
WCCC Board Chair
May 3, 2011

As a Milwaukee resident, Wisconsin consumer, and Board Chair of the Wisconsin Coalition for Consumer Choice, I believe the Telecom Modernization bill (SSAB 14 / SSSB 13 is in the interest of Wisconsin consumers. The legislation will create more competition by providing consumers more choices, and greater product innovation while maintaining strong consumer protections at no additional cost to Wisconsin consumers.

The Wisconsin Coalition for Consumer Choice (WCCC) advocates on behalf of more than 16,000 citizens and community-based organizations throughoutWisconsin.  We are committed to defending and protectingWisconsinconsumer choices.

The telecom modernization bill will benefit Wisconsin consumers by giving them greater choices. Passage of telecom modernization would allow multiple providers to enter the marketplace giving our supporters more choices in service and product offerings. Those choices will ensure our supporters pay fair market value for services, and will also create a competitive marketplace which will create incentives for providing better services to consumers.

The bill also makes it easier for new providers to enter the marketplace with the creation of a statewide certification process for new competitors.

This bill enhances Wisconsin consumer protections that Wisconsin consumers rightfully deserve. Currently, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission receives all land-line telephone complaints. This bill moves the complaints to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, who handles complaints of cell-phone providers and many other services Wisconsin consumers utilize.

The bill also maintains Lifeline Service and Wisconsin’s “Do Not Call List”. Service in rural areas ofWisconsinwill continue for its current customers because of federal requirements to provide local service if a telephone company is receiving government support, which rural providers heavily depend on.

A recent study by the National Centerfor Health Statistics showed that in July 2009 only 15 percent of Wisconsin households relied solely on cell-phones. In just one year, the number of households inWisconsinrelying solely on cell-phones has risen to 25 percent. Telephone companies aren’t abandoning consumers; consumers are making a choice that best fits their needs.

We believe this Special Session Assembly Bill 14/ Special Session Senate Bill 13  is good for consumers because it provides more competition, more choices and maintains strong consumer protections with no fees or taxes passed on to Wisconsin consumers.

GOP proposal would cap interest on payday loans

By The Associated Press
April 27,2011

Interest rates on payday loans would be capped at 36% under a proposal Republicans are circulating in the Wisconsin Legislature.

New regulations on the payday lending industry took effect in December, but the previous Legislature controlled by Democrats rejected a cap on interest. Consumer advocates who supported tighter regulations on the industry had pushed for the interest rate cap, saying it was needed to prevent borrowers from getting socked with interest as high as 500% or more.

The new law limits the size of the loans and bars auto title loans.

Rep. Evan Wynn of Whitewater and Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend are proposing the interest rate cap. They are seeking co-sponsors of the proposal until May 12.