Ky. Senate committee passes controversial phone bill
FRANKFORT, KY (WDRB) -- A controversial bill advances in Frankfort despite warnings from opponents that it would strip oversight from the state and allow phone companies to abandon land lines.
But supporters of Senate Bill 88 say those claims are speculative - and in some cases - unfounded.
Patrick Turner, an attorney for AT&T, told the Senate committee that his company is making a $14 billion investment nationwide to upgrade its wireless technology. He says AT&T has invested $1 billion since 2006.
Turner says Senate Bill 88 would free up his company to make more investments in wireless technology and allow for more investment dollars into the state – corporate dollars that he says could easily go elsewhere.
"Our CEO has decide how to make those investments. And he said he's going to invest in states that have 21st century regulations. You know it's hard to argue with logic," said Turner.
But critics charge the bill allows phone companies like AT&T, Cincinnati Bell and Windstream to abandon land lines in parts of the state where cell service is poor and many constituents wouldn't be able to afford "bundled" packages now offered by phone and cable providers.
"We believe that it can cause a loss of phone service for those... living on fixed incomes," said Jim Kimbrough, president of AARP Kentucky.
Sen. Paul Hornback, R - Shelbyville, the bill's primary sponsor, told members of the Senate committee on economic development and tourism: "Let me be clear, not one person would lose telephone service if we update our laws."
But in an interview with WDRB News, Hornback conceeded the bill would clear the path for those like AT&T to avoid state regulations. The bill will would "end commission jurisdiction over consumer complaints concerning broadband service. Hornback added that the bill does allow for those landlines to eventually be replaced.
"They could replace them with wireles as long as it comparable service," said Hornback.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D - Prestonsburg, doesn't like the bill and sees it as a threat to his constituents.
"I'm not going to abandon the people of (my district) because some company says they have to have deregulation to invest. That's not true. They can invest more money if they want to."
Despite the reservations of some, the bill passed the Senate committee.
Senate bill 88 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.