IO Says SB. 271 Is a “Wrong Number”

For Immediate Release:  July 19, 2012
Contact:  Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

IO Says SB. 271 Is a “Wrong Number

Think Tank Urges Legislature To Kill Latest Telecom “Reform”

Columbus: Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released a report today that says SB 271 is “unnecessary, anti-consumer, and potentially harmful to elderly, rural, and low-income Ohioans. It should not be passed by the General Assembly.”  The think tank offered four “alternative recommendations” for consideration by lawmakers.

SB 271 is the latest “reform” bill to be pushed by the telecommunications industry.  Less than three years ago, the industry successfully lobbied for enactment of SB 162, and used many of the same arguments it’s now offering on behalf of SB 271.  The IO study released today says that many of the industry’s claims and predictions — especially those related to job creation — failed to materialize and that the General Assembly should not pass any new reforms until the “Select Committee” it created to assess the impact of SB 162 finishes its work and issues its report.

Among the principal findings of the IO Report are:

  • Current law already provides multiple remedies for telephone companies claiming “financial hardship” because of their obligation to provide basic landline service;
  • SB 271 would “erode consumer protections”, force many to purchase higher-cost service plans, and leave many Ohioans without access to 9-1-1 and other emergency services;
  • The so-called “fail-safe” provision in SB 271 — which the industry claims will ensure that no Ohioan goes without basic phone service — is fatally flawed;
  • Industry assertions that enactment of SB 271 will create jobs are highly dubious. Similar claims were made in 2009 on behalf of SB 162 — yet AT&T, for example, admits that it actually employs 3,000 fewer workers now than it did then;
  • The General Assembly should not pass SB 271 until the “Select Committee” it created to study the impact of the last reform (SB 162) issues its report.  That report is due in 2014.

Said IO President Janetta King:

“Few things are more important in today’s world than access to affordable, basic phone service. The elderly, the infirm and those who live in Ohio’s rural communities should not lose that access simply because phone companies want to fatten their wallets and increase their already record-breaking profits.

“Rather than rush through yet another ‘reform’, the General Assembly should, at a minimum, wait for the Select Committee’s assessment of how well the last reform is working out.

“In the meantime, Innovation Ohio has developed four common-sense recommendations that we hope the legislature will consider instead.  After all, Ohio consumers deserve better than having their access to vital utilities taken away to increase corporate profits.”

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