Bill Modernizing Colorado Telecom Laws and
Lowering Consumer Fees Postponed Indefinitely
Legislators Call Upon Public Utilities Commission to Adopt Reforms
Denver – Bi-partisan legislation calling for reform of Colorado’s telecommunication laws (SB 12-157) was post-poned indefinitely today in the Senate Appropriations Committee. With a broad coalition of consumers, chambers, technology organizations and providers supporting the legislation, Senate Bill 157 sought to modernize Colorado’s archaic telecommunication laws by reducing consumer fees, updating regulations to reflect marketplace changes in technology, phasing out subsidies in competitive areas, and investing in broadband infrastructure in unserved areas of the state.
“We took a bi-partisan approach to modernize Colorado’s 25-year-old telecommunication policies with the goal of preparing our state for a broadband future that, quite honestly, is already here,” said Senator Mark Scheffel (R-Parker). “The disappointing factor is not whether or not we have won or lost on a bill – the disappointing factor is that residents, businesses and anyone who uses technology remain behind as we try to move Colorado forward. We just couldn’t get Senate leadership to grasp the complexities of this bill. ”
“While we are extremely disappointed that the bill did not go forward, it should provide clear direction to the Public Utilities Commission on the steps needed to modernize the High Cost Fund and ensure regulatory parity for all the carriers. Consumer dollars are being wasted by subsidizing large companies where competition already exists. ” said Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver).
Specifically, bill sponsors are calling upon the PUC to play an active role over the next 6 months and to implement parts of the bill under their regulatory authority. This includes reviewing the Colorado High Cost Fund and ensuring these dollars go only to areas that lack sufficient competition to help lower consumer bills. They call on regulators to create a competitive test to determine where subsidies are still required from the High Cost Fund. And they call upon the Commission to lower intrastate access rates and reduce regulation on traditional landline services that reflect changes in the marketplace, as well as taking steps to ensure that the small rural carriers are treated fairly by requiring all fund recipients to use the same cost model.
“Make no mistake—telecom modernization and the dynamics behind crafting reform—or even discussing it, is not an easy task. But we have worked tirelessly on what is now two years of discussions and collaboration,” said Sen. Lois Tochtrop (D-Thornton). “Our hope is the Public Utilities Commission will continue this important work in the months ahead.”
“Big Labor and a large corporation—CenturyLink—conspired to continue taking money from the people, without any benefit to citizens,” said Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock). “I regret that Senate Democrat leadership was also a party to preventing groundbreaking telecom reform.”
The legislation was sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators including Senator Mark Scheffel (R-Parker), Senator Lois Tochtrop (D-Thornton), Representative Angela Williams (D-Denver), and Representative Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock).
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