AT&T and Verizon’s Deregulation Bill
Bill Update: Unfortunately, Governor Brown signed anti-consumer legislation SB 1161 (Padilla) on September 28.
Phone companies like AT&T and Verizon supported Senate Bill 1161 (Padilla) to undermine a government watchdog agency’s ability to investigate unfair advertising practices, inflated fees on phone bills, phone service outages, privacy violations and other consumer complaints.
Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee
On the Assembly side, despite a significant effort from consumer advocates, the bill passed through the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee on June 18th with a 13-1 vote, the Assembly Appropriations Committee (16-1) and the Assembly Floor (63-12). Prior to that, Padilla’s bill passed through the Senate Energy, Utilities and Commerce Committee (12-0) and the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Suspense File (7-0). SB 1161 then went to the Governor’s desk.
SB 1161 will eliminate the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulation over internet enabled telecommunications, including VoIP (Voice over the Internet Protocol) and IP (Internet Protocol) services. IP-enabled telecom will replace most traditional, dedicated phone lines in the next few years. This would leave millions of California residential telephone subscribers with no consumer protection agency, and no watchdog to investigate unfair advertising practices, inflated fees on phone bills, phone service outages, privacy violations and other consumer complaints.
California Public Utilities Commission
In early May, members of the CPUC received petitions and emails from over 7,000 consumers, urging them to oppose SB 1161. At their May 24th and June 7th meetings, the CPUC decided against taking a formal position on SB 1161.