Consumer Coalition Kicks Off Campaign Against Telecommunications Deregulation

Thomas P. Morahan

March 15, 2006

A broad-based statewide coalition came together to call on the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to delay implementation of new regulations that would increase the cost of basic phone service by 300% in some parts of the state.The Public Service Commission is considering taking action to further deregulate telephone service in New York.

Senator Thomas P. Morahan was joined by representatives from Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, AARP, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the NYS AFL-CIO, Citizen Action, ACORN, New York Association for Retired Americans and the Public Utility Law Project and other State Legislators to call on the PSC to delay action on deregulation pending further study of the impact on senior citizens, low-income and upstate consumers. Senator Morahan and Asemblyman Richard Brodsky announced legislation in the Senate and the Assembly (S 6787/ A. 9807) that would force the PSC to halt deregulation until a comprehensive study can be completed.

"I am proud to sponsor this legislation because it is fundamentally about protecting consumers’ rights," Said Senator Thomas Morahan. "I have seen in my own county that energy deregulation has brought us higher prices for power, leaving consumers literally in the dark. We need to stop and take a good hard look at what will happen to prices and service quality before we deregulate our telecommunications system. In addition, we must make every effort to protect our most vulnerable residents, including seniors, who are continually being traumatized by unreasonable cost increases for basic necessities of life including the ability to communicate."

The New York State Public Service Commission, made up of five members appointed by the Governor, has proposed sweeping changes to the rules governing the telecommunications industry in New York, including:

· Permitting the phone company to charge $24.95 per month for basic service across the State. This would represent a 300% price increase in some areas.

· Establishing "flexible prices" for all other services, allowing phone companies to charge more for additional services such as call waiting and voice mail.

· Weakening customer service requirements by giving the phone company permission to reduce its number of customer service representatives and to drop the requirement that service centers are open during business hours.

"Older New Yorkers depend on affordable basic phone service and reliable 911 phone service for their continued well-being. Seniors on fixed incomes will be hit especially hard if there are any proposed rate increases for these essential services," said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. "AARP commends Assemblyman Brodsky and Senator Morahan for proposing legislation that takes a close look at any proposed deregulation of the telephone industry and its impact on the consumer protections New Yorkers currently enjoy."