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Alabama Phone Deregulation Approved by Legislature - Governor Riley's the Next Stop

by: countrycat

Sat May 02, 2009 at 17:01:13 PM CDT

Alabama phone deregulationThey must be popping the corks at AT&T, Bellsouth, and other local phone services suppliers.  And those corks are going directly in the eyes of the Alabama Public Service Commission and Alabama consumers.

The Alabama Phone Deregulation end game - ended. 

On Thursday, the Alabama House approved the Senate phone deregulaton bill (sponsored by Rodger Smitherman, President Pro Tem of the Senate) that completely deregulates all land line service in Alabama.  Not only that, it strips the Public Service Commission of any regulatory authority over prices, service, or quality.

Now, it goes to the governor to sign or not.  Remember though, that the Legislature can override vetos by a simple majority, which pretty much renders a Governor's veto irrelevant.

This bill helps somebody - and it's not consumers in this state - particularly rural residents.

I was able to ask Congressman Artur Davis a queston about it in Birmingham on Friday, and that video is on the flip.  I emailed the Ron Sparks campaign for a reaction (at least I contacted them in the only way possible, which is to fill out the "volunteer" form on the Web site and leave a comment - anyone know how a better way to contact the campaign?  PLEASE?),  but don't have a response yet. And, as you watch the Davis video, you'll see that we're actually waiting on a response from him as well.

Watch the video on the flip.  And ask your legislator his he/she supported this legislation.  Why or why not?

countrycat :: Alabama Phone Deregulation Approved by Legislature - Governor Riley's the Next Stop

Congressman Davis:

I fervently hope both Congressman Davis and Agriculture Commissioner Sparks come to the defense of the PSC and Alabama consumers.  Haven't we seen enough of what happens in critical industries when government oversight is either lax or completely nonexistent?

This isn't an intellectual argument about "competition" and "private enterprise" for consumers - especially rural ones.  Town people (sorry, it's what I grew up calling them) now don't understand that many, many rural areas don't have a choice of landline phone providers.  We don't have cable or DSL.  Even if we do, when the power goes off (happens a lot in the boonies), we can't rely on Skype or other VOIP providers.  In rural and especially mountainous areas, there's no cell service either.

For a lot of people, reliable, affordable landline phone service isn't a convenience - is a necessity and a public health and safety issue.  There's simply no other reliable way in an emergency to call for police, volunteer fire department, or an ambulance.  And no other way to contact your parents or grandparents when you're far away and need to check on them.

Is this our future in Alabama?  Government bought and paid for by the highest campaign contributor?  A powerless, toothless Public Service Commission that can't even say for sure who has broadband coverage where?  See our previous post about the PSC and the Alabama Broadband Initiative.

It's time for our candidates to step up and tell us where they stand on this issue!

C'mon guys (and maybe gals!)... we'll front page it when you do!

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Nice interview (4.00 / 2)

I was quite appreciative of Congressman Davis' comments. It's nice to hear a Congressman say he doesn't have all the answers and he's not an expert on every subject.

 I'm certainly no expert on this subject, and haven't got a clue how to answer it either. 

I know what you mean. (4.00 / 2)

I'm sure he was prepared for "how do you answer Ron Sparks' charge that..." or "will Sue Bell Cobb's candidacy affect..." and "will Alabama vote for a black guy..."

and then to have the crazed rural blogger start chewing on him about rural broadband and phone service!

However, as much as I like the "I don't have enough info to tell you.. yet..." I also want an answer on the subject.

It's an issue that affects me as a rural resident on many levels, but the issue of stripping the PSC of most of their authority affects us all.  That's the big issue, IMHO. I hope our Democratic candidates for all state offices feel the same way.


"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."  - John Kenneth Galbraith

[ Parent ]
Thanks be for crazed rural bloggers! (4.00 / 3)

How else will Artur, Ron, and others ever find out what's going on and what's being done to rural voters?

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
- John Adams

[ Parent ]
More about phone dereg & PSC (4.00 / 1)

Interesting article on MSN about this issue:

Several legislators from rural areas worried the bill would hurt their constituents.

Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said PSC regulation has helped residents in his district, which includes rural Pike and Dale counties. He said the PSC once helped fix a situation where it was a long distance call for a woman to call her mother who lived across the street.

"Now who am I going to get them to call when they have problems?" Boothe asked.

Good question.

The article also says about Governor Riley:

The governor's press secretary, Todd Stacy, said Riley plans to study the bill and has not decided if he will sign it.

Hey, the phone number for the governor's office is:
(334) 242-7100

Or, send Governor Riley an email.

Get to work, guys!  If he vetoes it late in the session, the water-carriers for AT&T & company won't have time to bring it back for an override vote.

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."  - John Kenneth Galbraith

Does this refer to HB478? (4.00 / 2)

It would help if a bill is identified by bill number so people could go to ALISON and do some research on the bill.

I did some research on HB478 but found that the History of the bill doesn’t seem up to date as you can see @ http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/ACTIONHistoryFrame.asp?OID=61829&LABEL=HB478.

Maybe I just don’t know how to get to the final disposition of the bill from that point.

I wish I could recall where I read earlier today the recorded roll call on the vote. I believe it said that most Republicans in the HOR voted for it, but that my representative, Barry Mask, voted against it.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

It was HB478 (4.00 / 1)

and the House took up the amended Senate version, which is different from the original bill.  The Senate put in some window dressing to protect the poor... but requires that the "poor" already be enrolled in certain govt programs, have income limits, etc....  Enough paperwork to choke my donkey and nothing that applies to the majority of rural people with no other options.

sorry, I'd have linked to the ALISON site, but I'm skittish.  You have to access it using Internet Explorer, it's hard to use and search, and the last time I did it, I got a horrid virus infection that took me and our home network offline for almost a week.

I can't say for sure it was IE and ALISON, but that's the only "unusual"combination I'd used prior to that, so I'm really averse to going back there.


"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."  - John Kenneth Galbraith

[ Parent ]
Just another reason Alabama will remain a backwater (0.00 / 0)
I am sure that most of the voters in this state will approve of this legislation. They vote Republican.

I WISH we could blame the Republicans (4.00 / 2)

but this bill couldn't have been passed without Democrats sponsoring it, voting it out of committee, bringing it to the floor, and passing it.

The rules of the Legislature are written so that the majority essentially does whatever it damn well pleases.  And that means Democrats, this case - and many others unfortunately.

Maybe the majority of Alabamians support it, but I just don't think so.  Most people have no idea it was ever up for consideration or the ramifications.  The special interests and Legislators who carry water for them are intent on making sure that what goes on in Montgomery is as opaque as possible.

That's why we need Ethics reform.  NOW.


"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."  - John Kenneth Galbraith

[ Parent ]
Nice Post (4.00 / 4)

While I am usually skeptical of government regulation (not because it is not needed, but rather for the incompetence and corruption among government regulators it seems to breed), when a company in essence has a monopoly, which is the case in most rural areas re phone service, regulation is not only needed but absolutely necessary. 

The real question in my mind is what is behind this? If the phone companies want no PSC oversight, they have a specific objective in mind which they think the PSC would block - what is it?

Democrats introduced this, and since they hold a majority could have stopped this - I compliment you on your honesty there.

As to reform, when liberals like you and Mooncat, moderates like me and even conservatives are clamouring for ethics reform, you have to wonder why it isn't happening. Perhaps we should disregard the Democratic and Republican labels in the Alabama Legislature and use those in power vs those not in power.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Edmund Burke

[ Parent ]
I'm afraid the Alabama Legislature (4.00 / 2)

Has turned into a racket.

I hate it, because I know some members and they aren't crooks.  But there are enough racketeers down there to roll over the honest legislators.

I don't have much faith in Bob Riley vetoing this either.

Maybe he'll surprise me...

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
- John Adams

[ Parent ]
"those in power vs those not in power" (4.00 / 2)

I'm tempted OP, sorely tempted.  Have the Democrats in the Alabama Legislature completely forgotten their principles?  Like this one:

That the people are entitled to honest and ethical government; that it is demanded of all public servants that they make complete, current, public disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest; that in carrying out their public trusts they serve no master save only the people; and that they fairly make and administer the laws without fear or favor. It is the duty of all public servants to relentlessly support and enforce the highest ethical standards without any regard to political exigencies of affiliations.

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
I just sent an email to Rep Barry Mask (4.00 / 3)

who is my representative in the HOR, the text of which follows: “There's what they call a "diary" on "Left in Alabama" titled "Alabama Phone Deregulation Approved by Legislature - Governor Riley's Next Stop" @ http://www.leftinalabama.com/diary/3861/alabama-phone-deregulation-approved-by-legislature-governor-rileys-the-next-stop that I hope you will read.

After reading it feel free to post a comment if you can figure out how to do it, but whether you do that or not, will you reply to this email and tell me (if you can) where to find the roll call vote on the bill when the HOR voted on it? I believe I saw the roll call vote results posted somewhere a couple of days ago but I can't recall where that was.

I believe the vote results I saw it said that the vote for and against was bi-partisan in some respects and that you were one of the Republicans who voted against it. Would you tell me what it is about the bill that caused you to vote the way you did (which I approve of if you voted against it)?”

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6


The roll call vote in the HOR on Senator Smitherman’s SB373 to de-regulate, I just found @ http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/GetRollCallVoteFrame.asp?MOID=355097&VOTE=1086&BODY=1755&INST=SB373&SESS=1049


"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...."      Hosea 4:6

Thanks for that! (4.00 / 2)

I wanted to include it in the original diary - becuase I also had seen it... somewhere...

But didn't because, well, the truth is I wanted to watch the Kentucky Derby and it was getting close to post time.  ;-)

So I didn't spend a lot of time hunting for it.

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."  - John Kenneth Galbraith

[ Parent ]
Hooked on fonics (4.00 / 1)
Wouldn't it be more appropriate to use the acronym "HOR's"?

[ Parent ]
Thanks! (4.00 / 2)
Looks my Rep - Jeff McLaughlin voted no!

[ Parent ]
Jeff McLaughlin (4.00 / 1)
True blue progressive there.  He brings up the PAC to PAC transfer bill in the House every year to see it pass there and go die in the Senate.  I'm really disappointed not to live in his district.

Work harder and work smarter!

[ Parent ]
Thank goodness for rural bloggers (4.00 / 3)

and for the blogosphere.  The reason this issue is sailing through the legislature is because the media we have is too busy skeering everybody about the Swine Flu.  When I talk to people about this issue, they look at me like I'm speaking in tongues.  In addition to writing and emailing our elected representatives we need some letters to the editor and some op eds. 

I agree with herding old cats, the legislature has turned into a racket and the media helped.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.~Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D. MA)

Long as we're DUHregulating.... (4.00 / 1)

Maybe we could regain some privacy for American citizens? If the Government considers itself irrelevant in the price-and-service process, perhaps the Government could also butt out and stop using AT&T to spy on its citizens....just a thought.

Oh, I forgot. It's still a Public Utility, and is subsidized by gazillions of your tax dollars. I think those dollars are for putting in service where it might not be profitable, and to help keep national phone access reasonable.

Long as they are getting those $$, though - I think the American People should have a voice in seeing that these services are provided for a reasonable price. The PSC should represent the citizens and their interests.

If you're saying, "Oh, competition will regulate the market", you're probably a townie. And if you're saying "They wouldn't do that", you probably never read about what happened when an unregulated outsider took over the water supply in Bolivia. There were riots. People were killed. Seems better to keep it all nice and civilized with a PSC, or something :)



A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. -Churchill



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