Sunday, October 7, 2012

Can You Afford To Hear Me Now?

If you own a landline phone, get ready to pay more, a lot more for it. And that's if your phone doesn't get cut off completely.

In 2011, the Republican led legislature passed Act 22, which was co-authored by State Senator Luther Olsen.

Generally speaking, per the State Bar of Wisconsin, what Act 22 does is: deregulates AT&T Wisconsin and Frontier North; changes the consumer complaint process;deregulates intrastate access charges; eliminates alternative regulation plans; and eliminates various Public Service Commission oversight duties.

What it does in reality is allows the phone companies to charge whatever the hell they want to for your landline.

Furthermore, if it is deemed too costly or too inconvenient to maintain your phone service, they can cut you off. It doesn't matter if you're in an area that doesn't have cell phone receptions or if you need the phone for emergency purposes. This is a real concern in many rural parts of Wisconsin where there already is only one phone company servicing the area. You can't just switch companies because there isn't another one to switch to.

And if you don't like their actions, well you're just SOL, because there will be no agency to help you.

As you can imagine, this came straight from the bowels of Hell, otherwise known as ALEC:
Telecommunications Modernization Act: On May 23, 2011, Governor Walker signed into law one of the first bills he requested, a radical deregulation of the telecommunications industry in Wisconsin. Under the bill, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) could no longer set telecommunication rates to keep prices low for consumers, perform audits of providers, or investigate consumer complaints. It is prohibited from regulating data services such as high speed Internet.

The law strips away 50 years of consumer protection for landline telephone subscribers. It guts the PSC's authority to regulate rates of basic phone service in areas with little or no competition. The Citizens Utility Board, a consumer advocacy group, opposed the action. "We're very worried that customers who have no choice in landline service will see either very high rates for that service or see that service disappear," Charlie Higley, the board's executive director, said in a May 24 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article on the manner.

The bill tracks ALEC's "Regulatory Modernization Act" which prohibits any commission from regulating rates and charges, terms and conditions of services, mergers or acquisitions and more. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, in 2009 and 2010, the telecommunications industry gave Walker $87,822. Between 2007-2011, Scott Fitzgerald $12,770 from the Telecom Services & Equipment Industry. Jeff Fitzgerald received $10,419 for the same period.

Walker recently named former state Rep. Phil Montgomery chair of the Public Service Commission. Montgomery was ALEC's "Legislator of the Year" in 2005 and formerly headed ALEC's Telecommunication and Information Technology Task Force's Subcommittee on Competition. AT&T serves on ALEC's corporate "Private Enterprise" governing board and lobbied hard for the bill in Wisconsin, along with other telecommunications firm, such as Verizon, another ALEC member.
This law, which goes into effect in May 2013, is going to be very expensive for a lot of people, especially those in the rural areas.

Where our trailer is, there is no cell phone service. To get a reliable signal, you have to drive at least five miles. And there is only one provider up there. AT&T won't go there because it's "too expensive" and there's not enough profit to make it worth their while.

If the phone company we do have raises their rates too high, or cuts us off completely, that will make our investment into a freeze alarm a waste of money. We will also probably have to consider shutting down the trailer in the winter now.

But we are actually the lucky ones. There is one elderly woman at the other end of the road who will probably have to move to make sure she can reach someone in an emergency.

This is just one of the myriad of reasons why Olsen needs to be kicked out of office.

Fortunately, the voters have a very solid alternative in Margarete Worthington. You can learn more about her on her Facebook page and help support her campaign through her Act Blue page.


  1. They are going backwards in every way! I am literally amazed at the crazy right wing puppets who have hijacked the government in WI. They are puppets for the Koch brothers, ALEC, pretty much any right wing nut job who has some cash to throw at them. They are like right wing whores or something. Seriously, I never thought that I would say something like this but it seems to be the case. Wow, I hope that you all can vote these idiots out of office. Scott Walker and Paul Ryan both have REALLY made your state look bad this year. When will they get around to charging Walker with the crimes he's been involved with? It is pretty obvious that he was directing his minions to break the law. WI politics is fascinating!

    1. Yeah, this hasn't exactly been the golden years here.

  2. Senator Vinehout tried to warn people about this in May of last year.

  3. Florida's repugs, under the deluded governor Prick Snot, passed similar legislation. The Bomb has not hit yet.

  4. Vos has GOT to GO.

  5. Luther Olsen has admitted in private that he "doesn't always read bills" before voting on them. I wonder if he even read this bill before he added his name as "co-author".

  6. So, after they push Granny off the cliff, she won't be able to phone in the crime. Egads.

  7. ATT, ALEC, and the GOP did the same thing a few years ago with the cable laws. It zapped local control and turned over the franchising authority to the state's banking regulators, who said "Why'd you do that, we know nothing about cable?" Remember how the new law was going to give more options and competition and lower prices?