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NJ Supports Consumer-Friendly Telecommunications Deregulation

On Nov. 21, representatives of AARP NJ and other consumer advocates, concerned residents, municipal leaders, and key legislators held a State House press Conference concerning New Jersey’s year long debate over telecommunications and cable industry sponsored deregulation proposals.

Those in attendance spoke out against their proposed legislation, S2664, as it would prove extremely damaging to consumers, primarily as a result of an elimination of most government oversight. This could result in a rise in rates and a decline in service quality and options. The press conference was held to also announce a new, alternative bill that would protect consumers while relieving the industry of regulatory oversight where it is no longer needed.

State Senator Bob Smith (D-17) announced the introduction of S3062, the “Telecommunications-Cable Television Deregulation Ensuring Consumer Protection Act”, a bill that he is co-sponsoring with State Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37), the newly elected Senate Majority Leader.

AARP State Director Jim Dieterle said that this new piece of legislation, S3062, is one that AARP members, and all NJ state residents, can feel confident supporting.

“This bill will provide balance,” said Dieterle. “It will alleviate the telecommunications industry from many of the regulations that may no longer be necessary or appropriate, but will also protect the governmental oversight that ensures quality service and fair prices. Just as we encouraged our members and all New Jerseyans to call their state legislators and Governor Christie and tell them NO to S2664, we are now encouraging them to call to voice their support for S3062.”

S3062, contrary to S2664, will not eliminate important governmental oversight currently provided by the Board of Public Utilities. And unlike, S2664, companies would not be able to easily raise basic service rates or force seniors, many of whom are on limited incomes, into expensive service packages. And potentially most importantly, this bill would will help to protect the quality of service and the affordability of rates to those who need it most, those who depend on basic landline phone service to stay connected with the outside world, to reach loved ones, for purposes of home security, medical alert systems, and in times of natural disasters or weather emergencies.

Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, who represented the New Jersey League of Municipalities, spoke out in favor of S3062.

“The recent storms that New Jersey has faced, such as Hurricane Irene, and the late October snowstorm, devastated our area,” said Wahler. “It is imperative that we enact responsible telecommunications regulation that does not result in service outages.”

State Assembly Chair of Telecommunications and Utilities, Deputy Speaker Upendra J. Chivukula (D-17), who last week introduced to the Assembly A4304, S3062’s companion legislation, also attended the press conference.

This press event was cosponsored by the Don’t Hang Up on New Jersey coalition including AARP New Jersey, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, NJ Citizen Action, and the Communications Workers of America.