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Press Release from Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel

OCTOBER 6, 2009

Press Release from Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel 

Consumer advocates: Telephone legislation strips consumer protections

COLUMBUS, Ohio – September 29, 2009 – In response to hearings being held today in the Ohio General Assembly, a group of advocacy organizations said legislation to deregulate local telephone service throughout the state will hurt consumers. The hearings are to consider Senate Bill 162 and House Bill 276, which are industry-backed bills that would make significant changes to the pricing and oversight of Ohio’s local telephone companies.
 

Consumer advocates: Telephone legislation strips consumer protections

COLUMBUS, Ohio – September 29, 2009 – In response to hearings being held today in the Ohio General Assembly, a group of advocacy organizations said legislation to deregulate local telephone service throughout the state will hurt consumers. The hearings are to consider Senate Bill 162 and House Bill 276, which are industry-backed bills that would make significant changes to the pricing and oversight of Ohio’s local telephone companies.

The advocates’ concerns about the proposed bill include:

  • Allowing annual price increases for all Ohio local telephone companies;
  • Weakening consumer protections in areas such as service quality, customer credits, billing and deposits;
  • Weakening the Lifeline discount program for low-income Ohioans and shifting costs to consumers; and
  • Failing to provide broadband access to all Ohioans.

“Ohioans across the state deserve fair and reasonably priced telephone service,” said Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander. “Under the legislation, residential consumers could be left with higher prices while telephone companies would have less accountability for bad service. We are extremely concerned with this proposal.”

“There are no real benefits for low-income consumers in the legislation, while the potential harms are substantial,” said Ellis Jacobs of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. “Consumers need affordable telephone service and this bill all but assures that customers will be paying more and getting less.”

“This legislation would weaken the Lifeline program, which low-income Ohioans rely on to afford basic telephone service,” said Phil Cole, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies. “Efforts to make consumers aware of the discount program would be significantly reduced, increasing the odds that many eligible consumers will not get the payment assistance they need.”

“Low-income consumers on the Lifeline program would no longer be protected from increases to the price of basic local telephone service,” said Joe Maskovyak of the Ohio Poverty Law Center. “Statewide, those who cannot make ends meet could pay more each year for their dial tone. In a struggling economy, this legislation sends one message to our poorest consumers: ‘Pay up or hang up.’”