September 23, 2020

Senate Consumer Protection committee clears Phillips-Hill telco dereg legislation that would increase investment in rural broadband


Legislation that would remove major regulatory barriers for telecommunications companies to begin improving access to high-speed internet received the overwhelming support of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee on Tuesday, according to Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York), who sponsored the measure.

“Now more than ever, it is absolutely apparent that our digital divide is leaving many behind, including students,” Phillips-Hill said.

Under Phillips-Hill’s legislation, certain telecommunications providers would be provided some much-needed regulatory relief so they can more easily deploy broadband to areas of the state that do not currently have access. It will modernize Chapters 63 and 64 of the Public Utility Code and require the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to waive certain regulations, review regulations every three years and eliminate those that are no longer necessary or in the public interest.

According to Phillips-Hill, many of the regulations which exist in the state’s Public Utility Code have been in place for decades while changes in technology and in the telecommunications marketplace have made these costly requirements unnecessary or illogical.

Chapters 63 and 64 of the Code, which contain regulations for telephone companies, have not been subject to any comprehensive review to examine their relevancy and application to the realities of today’s telecommunications industry.

“I have heard from many individuals about the challenges this has posed and they have asked for the digital divide to be closed sooner rather than later as high-speed internet is needed now during the COVID-19 pandemic more than ever in our history,” she said.

Last year, Phillips-Hill and the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, which she chairs, held a series of hearings across the state to review how to close the digital divide in Pennsylvania. Following the hearings, the committee released a report outlining the suggestions provided by stakeholders at the public hearings. One of the three key findings of the committee was to address archaic regulations in state statute.

“As we continue to advance long-term solutions, the regulatory relief I am proposing will allow our telecommunications companies to be nimbler and more responsive to the needs and challenges we face today,” she added.