Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 7, 2013

AT&T bill could be in trouble

FRANKFORT — A bill that would deregulate telephone service in Kentucky and possibly put in jeopardy rural customers would be guaranteed landline service might be dead.

Senate Bill 88, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and pushed by AT&T passed the Republican-controlled Senate but faces major opposition in the Democratic-controlled House.

Hornback’s legislation would allow companies like AT&T to drop land line service if comparable services available from another source. AT&T claims it is necessary to allow the company to invest in wireless services and expand in Kentucky.

But opponents, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, argue rural and older customers, especially in eastern Kentucky where AT&T wireless service is at times spotty, depend on the service as a reliable connection to emergency services, family and the outside world.

The House Committee on Tourism, Development and Energy heard Thursday from Hornback, AT&T executive Patrick Turner as well as opponents of the bill like AARP and Tom Fitzgerald of the Kentucky Resources Council.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, and includes other skeptical eastern Kentucky lawmakers like Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, and Rep. John Short, D-Hindman.

Hall said the committee was prepared to consider a substitute to Hornback’s bill which would was largely written by Fitzgerald and which would allow non-land line service if alternative technology was “just as functional and just s reliable” as land line service.

No one would lose land line service under that arrangement, Fitzgerald said, because “such technology doesn’t currently exist.”

Hornback’s bill includes a “carve-out” for telephone exchanges of 5,000 customers or less, exempting those from losing land lines. He and Turner say failure to pass the bill will cost Kentucky millions in investment, high-speed Internet services and wireless expansion.

Turner said opponents’ objections are nothing more than “rhetoric” unsupported by facts. The latter, he said, show the company will move planned investments in Kentucky to states with friendlier regulatory environments.

Hornback said he’s asked opponents to produce examples of customers being denied land line services in other states which have passed legislation similar to his “and no one has been able to do so.”

Hall, the committee chair, said the proposed committee substitute “just guarantees Public Service Commission oversight to make sure Mom and Pop don’t lose their lines unless there is functional and reliable service to replace it.”

After Turner dismissed opponents’ criticisms as rhetoric and said the bill isn’t about prices or service but about competition and expanded services, Combs said those aren’t lawmakers’ first obligation.

“This committee sub is being drafted to take care of our constituents first — not the corporation,” Combs said.

Speaker Pro Tem, Larry Clark, D-Louisville, angrily complained that AT&T is paying for “robo-calls” to constituents of House leadership to pressure them to support the company’s bill. But that won’t work, he said, admonishing the company to work with opponents to find a bill acceptable to lawmakers.

Stumbo said Wednesday such calls were going to households in his district as well. On Thursday, he said the bill “has problems” and he doesn’t know if Hall will call it or the committee substitute for a vote.

Clay Corbett, member of Communications Workers of America and an AT&T employee in eastern Kentucky, said the company’s direction is clearly moving from landline service to wireless services. Regardless of assurances from the company, he said, older customers fear losing land lines.

“The older generations are still committed to land line service,” Corbett said.

In the end, no vote was taken on either the bill or the substitute. That doesn’t mean it’s dead — but with time running out in the session, its prospects aren’t that good, either.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014

  • Shay receives 38 years for fatal shooting

    Casey R. Shay, 27, of Morehead, was sentenced Monday to 38 years in prison for the fatal shooting last year of Cassandra M. “Cassie” Owens, 21.

    April 15, 2014

  • 0416homegarden.jpg Space not problem with home garden

    Growing your own dinner is not a concept lost on Kenny Imel.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Greenup court jumpstarts road repairs

    As part of the Greenup County Fiscal Court’s annual expenses, the court approved the first reading of an ordinance that allots up to $1.5 million for blacktopping damaged county roads.

    April 15, 2014

  • Nursing home reports drug theft to APD

    Woodland Oaks Health Care Facility, 1820 Oakview Road, on Monday reported the theft of 30 hydrocodone tablets from a secured area within the nursing home.

    April 15, 2014

  • Devices left from previous construction discovered

    All four lanes of U.S. 23 were shut down for nearly two hours Tuesday following the discovery of old explosives on a hillside rock cut.
    The devices apparently were left over from a previous construction project and were discovered by a crew working on the new Ironton-Russell Bridge, Russell Police Chief Tim Wilson said.

    April 15, 2014

  • Boyd walk to raise awareness of autism

    The differences in the nine children in Carla Malone’s classroom are striking.
    A few can talk, but some won’t make a sound and others jabber apparent nonsense sounds.
    There are playful children and those who keep to themselves. Some of the children can read and do other academic tasks. Schoolwork for others means matching pictures and doing exercises to develop fine motor skills, like learning to hold a pencil.

    April 15, 2014

  • Grimes outpaces McConnell in first quarter

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has again outpaced her likely Republican general election opponent, incumbent Mitch McConnell, in fundraising during the first quarter — but she remains well behind McConnell in total fundraising and cash on hand.

    April 15, 2014

  • 0416explosives0166 copy.jpg UPDATE: U.S. 23 reopened; explosives eliminated

    More information on the U.S. 23 closure from the the Kentucky Department of Highways.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • BREAKING: Explosives find shuts down U.S. 23

    All four lanes of U.S. 23 have been shut down to the discovery of undetonated explosives on a hillside, authorities said.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone