Tag Archives: telecom regulation

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services including internet and broadband, fosters competition for services, streamlines Wisconsin’s outdated regulatory environment by recognizing technological advancement in the industry, and expands economic opportunities for jobs in advancing telecommunication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

No Call violations tops state list of consumer complaints

Bill Novak
The Cap Times
May 24, 2011

Getting unwanted phone calls from telemarketers is the number one complaint of Wisconsin residents filing their protests with the state, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

This is the eighth year in a row that No Call list violators topped the list of complaints made to the state’s consumer watchdog agency.

“More than two million Wisconsin consumers have said ‘no’ to intrusive telemarketing calls by signing up for the state’s No Call list,” said Sandy Chalmers, administrator of the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection in a news release.

DATCP received 2,240 complaints about telemarketers in 2010.

The second-highest complaint was from renters against landlords.

DATCP got 1,696 written complaints over landlord/tenant issues, with the biggest problems having to do with security deposits and lease provisions.

Close on the heels of landlord problems was complaints about telecommunications companies, including phones and television, with 1,423 complaints.

“Read your phone and cable bills carefully, and question any charges you are unsure about,” Chalmers said. “Read the fine print in your contract and make sure you fully understand your responsibilities before entering into any sort of service agreement.”

Home improvements moved up one spot to No. 4 on the most complaints list.

Here’s the full list from DATCP:

1. No Call violations

2. Landlord/tenant issues

3. Telecommunications

4. Home improvement

5. Satellite dish services

6. Motor vehicle sales

7. Motor vehicle repairs

8. Travel/tourism

9. Mail order sales

10. Collection agencies

For more consumer information or to file a complaint, go online to datcp.wi.gov, by email at datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or by calling 800-422-7128.

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.

Steve Kohlmann: State must update telecom law

By Steve Kohlmann
April 5,2011

Dear Editor: In today’s tough economy, Wisconsin needs to do everything it can to attract new jobs and investment to our state. One long-overdue policy change we can make to spur economic growth and create jobs is to modernize Wisconsin’s telecommunications law. With Wisconsin facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, this is a simple update that won’t cost taxpayers a dime.

Outdated regulations on landlines prevent more investment in new technologies that are fueling economic growth in other states. Current law requires providers to invest resources in old, copper line technologies that consumers and businesses no longer desire — instead of investing those resources in the technologies of the future: wireless and broadband.

Ohio and Illinois both modernized their telecom laws last June, and since then have seen a combined $1 billion in announced investment and nearly 29,000 estimated jobs. Wisconsin could reap similar benefits.

Advancing a new telecommunications law will help Wisconsin become a leader in the Midwest for technology jobs and help keep and expand the valuable manufacturing jobs Wisconsin is known for.

The longer it takes Wisconsin to update its telecom laws, the farther we fall behind. That’s why the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin has joined a coalition of over 100 economic development, business, community and education leaders in urging lawmakers to update Wisconsin’s telecom laws as soon as possible.

If Wisconsin is to be open for business we’re going to have to walk the walk.

Steve Kohlmann

President, Independent Business Association of Wisconsin


Telecom Modernization: What it Means for Consumer Choice

By George Klaetsch
March 31,2011

For generations, Wisconsin has been known as a leader in reforms. It is only natural then, that the state would want to continue to lead when it comes to modernizing our current telecommunication regulations.  However, this is not the reality.  Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio have all recently updated their telecommunication regulations, while Wisconsin has failed to act. 

The freedom for companies to invest in new technologies will create a new competitive marketplace. In 1993, Congress auctioned off additional radio spectrums believing that new competitors would materialize. This spectrum is now used by wireless phones, and has resulted in the cost per minute of wireless phone calls dropping from 47 cents in 1994 to 6 cents in 2007. Without the new spectrum, companies would have been paralyzed and unable to invest in the wireless network we have today. Just three years later, in 1996, Congress eliminated cable rate regulation although cable operators retained 91 percent of all subscribers. Congress did this because new competitors from satellite television were becoming more popular. Since the deregulation of the cable industry, companies have invested $145 billion to build two-way interactive networks with fiber-optic technologies. That investment paved the way for more channels and choices than ever before.

Today, landline providers face increased competition from Voice over Internet Protocol providers (VoIP), cable operators and from wireless providers. However unlike VoIP, cable operators and wireless providers, landline providers are handicapped by antiquated telecommunication regulations that were last updated in 1994. According to the FCC, approximately 99.6 percent of the U.S. population, and 98.5 percent of people living in rural areas have one or more operators offering mobile telephone service. The increased competition in other forms of communication limits the ability of landline phone providers to dictate rates or other terms that harm consumers. Comprehensive reform will allow landline providers to improve their products and services, as well as adjust their pricing to respond to their new competitors.

Comprehensive reform allows for more competition, and just as we saw with wireless phone deregulation, costs to consumers will decrease, while choice increases. Continued regulation jeopardizes the ability of landline telephone providers to provide a competitive product and compete in today’s marketplace. A recent study by The Economist predicted that if consumers discontinue service at the current rate, “the last cord will be cut sometime in 2025”, leaving one less choice for consumers.

To find out who your legislator is and contact them regarding this issue click here.