Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lesniak's anti-consumer telecom bill coming back?

Plainfielders will want to weigh in if the Legislature takes up once again a so-called 'telecom reform bill' (S2664) that was tabled last spring after vociferous opposition from AARP and other consumer groups.

The state's Gannett newspapers editorialized on the bill in Tuesday's editions (see here), warning of dangers to consumers if the bill is brought up for a vote in an unmodified form during the flurry of activity that typically concludes a lame duck session.

A list of some of the consumer impacts includes --

  • Public and government channels (such as Plainfield's channels 34 and 96) would no longer have to be provided on cable systems;

  • Credits for telephone outages that last more than 24 hours would no longer have to be offered;

  • Protection against “slamming” — the practice of switching someone’s telephone service from one company to another without the customer’s permission — would be eliminated;

  • Customers would not be protected from discriminatory rates and could be refused service without reason.
After AARP threw its muscle against the bill in March (see here), even Gov. Christie said -- in a conference call with 17,000 AARP members statewide -- that he had 'grave concerns' about the bill which would allow increases to Seniors' basic phone rates (see here). The bill was not reported out of committee after Senate support collapsed in June (see here).

The Assembly had overwhelmingly supported the bill (as A3766) in February, with both Asm Jerry Green and Asw Linda Stender voting 'Yes'.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, one of the bill's prime sponsors, had voted yes on an amendment of the Senate version in February -- the last action taken in the Senate -- with 22nd District Sen. Nick Scutari listed as 'not voting'.

Verizon is arguing that the competitive landscape has shifted and it is losing landline business as well as facing competition from cable and satellite suppliers (a business in which Verizon is a newcomer).

While there may be some regulations that should be reviewed and perhaps tweaked -- the earliest ones date to 1911 -- the bill as it stands is definitely ANTI-CONSUMER and strips away needed protections against price-gouging and even crappier customer service.

Another aspect that would affect Plainfielders would be the elimination of the requirement for the provision of public access channels -- which Plainfielders view as Channels 34 (Verizon) or 96 (Comcast).

Though not optimally used or promoted by the Robinson-Briggs administration and with little or no provision for training the public in supplying original content, the loss of even these feeble outlets could never be made up in the future.

Plainfielders of all political stripes -- including 'independent' -- should reach out to the district's legislative delegation about this anti-consumer bill; it should not passed in the rush of the end-of-the-year lame duck session.


Senator Nicholas P. Scutari Democrat
1514 East Saint Georges Avenue, 2nd Floor
Linden, NJ 07036
(908) 587-0404

Assemblyman Jerry  Green Democrat
17 Watchung Avenue
Plainfield, NJ 07060
(908) 561-5757

Assemblywoman Linda  Stender Democrat
1801 East Second Street, 2nd Floor
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076
(908) 668-1900

Tip: When emailing legislators, always 'CC' or 'BCC' yourself so you keep a record of when and what you wrote.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Rob said...

Well... I don't know but if the following is true:

The Assembly had overwhelmingly supported the bill (as A3766) in February, with both Asm Jerry Green and Asw Linda Stender voting 'Yes'.

Then damnit, a vote against this Bill is a vote against Obama. If Governor Christie has concerns with it passing then it MUST be passed. Sneaky Republican in the woodpile trying to stop this bill from passing. GO JERRY & LINDA!!! POWER TO THE PARTY !

Anonymous said...

@ Rob - Tedious. Consider taking a break from commenting everywhere for a few weeks.

Anonymous said...

Six pols mentioned, and not one friend of the people. Heaven help us.