Telecommunications deregulation is complicated. It’s not an issue that can be glossed over with one broad stroke. Details must be examined, and consequences considered. This lack of detail is what makes much of the rhetoric by those who support NJ Senate Bill 2664 (S2664) misleading at best, and patently untrue at worst. The fact is, S2664 would dramatically deregulate the telephone and cable industries, and this deregulation would come directly at the expense of the consumers.
One particularly troubling consequence of S2664, is its proposed elimination of the role of the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). The BPU currently oversees the services provided by phone and cable companies, and is the authority to which consumers can turn if they are having problems with these companies, such as in resolving issues involving unaddressed problems with service or billing. Without the BPU to fall back on, consumers would have no support if phone or cable companies are not providing the services they are, in fact, supposed to be providing. S2664 would also eliminate existing processes that keep basic phone rates in check, which could ultimately lead to them spiraling out of control, which is exactly what has happened in other states where legislation similar to S2664 has passed. Additionally, S2664 would give telephone companies free reign to abandon the proper maintenance of landline service, service which was, for many, the sole connection to the outside world following recent severe storms in our area.
Meaningful telecommunications deregulation can be achieved without undermining the interests of consumers. Unfortunately, this bill, S2664, fails badly by this measure.
Associate State Director of Communications AARP New Jersey