Outdated telco regulations trimmed in Phillips-Hill legislation cleared by Senate Committee

Legislation that would eliminate outdated regulations for landline phone carriers that have been on the books for decades cleared the Senate Communications and Technology Committee this week in a victory for speedier broadband deployment.

The legislation, SB 85, sponsored by Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), would strike regulations enacted in an era when the incumbent phone carriers had a monopoly on voice service. Facing ever increasing competition, the carriers now claim less than 10 percent of that service, and given that they are big players in broadband deployment, especially in rural areas, it’s paramount that they are not burdened with needless regulations, Phillips-Hill said.

“We need every resource available to make sure this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect Pennsylvanians to high-speed internet is done responsibly and efficiently, which will require the state to streamline and modernize its laws,” she said in a statement.

SB 85 does nothing to restrict  the Public Utility Commission’s authority regarding the assurance of adequate, efficient, safe and reliable utility service , or impact provisions related to 911 service, relay service, the obligation to provide voice service, and other critical functions of the carriers.

Steven J. Samara, President of the Pennsylvania Telephone Association, the trade group for the rural carriers, said that the time and money saved not having to comply with the outdated regulations could be pumped back into broadband deployment.

“We are the only providers that must adhere to these regulations,” Samara said. “And with massive broadband funding on the horizon, the Senator Phillips-Hill legislation will help level the playing field with our competition and ensure that Pennsylvania consumers have the opportunity to receive world class broadband service from providers who have distinguished themselves in the landline environment for nearly a century or more.”

The bill now goes before the full Senate for consideration.