Following is testimony from Melissa Seifert, AARP Michigan Associate State Director for Government Affairs, to the Senate Energy & Technology Committee on Senate Bill 636, which would allow phone companies to eliminate landlline phone service with only 90 days’ notice starting in 2017:
“AARP appreciates that some positive amendments have been offered to SB 636. However, AARP remains concerned with the potential impact of SB 636and with preserving universal service, a longstanding public policy that promotes the availability of basic service for all customers, at reasonable rates.
”As mentioned in our previous testimony current law (Section 313) permits a provider of basic local exchange service (or long distance service) to discontinue service to customers in any exchange after providing notice, so long as, among other things, there are two other providers of a “comparable” basic voice service. AARP has ongoing concerns about the definition of a “comparable” voice service as it is extremely permissive – it encompasses any service that permits two-way voice calling, using any technology.
“As amended, beginning January 1, 2017, SB 636 sets out a new process to permit a carrier to discontinue service. While AARP believes that some of the new amendments are a step in the right direction (mentioned below), we still have significant concerns:
- The state commission would play no role in determining the competitiveness of the market or evaluating the potential impact of discontinuing service on the front end. Instead all considerations would be left to the FCC…flying in the face of the historic federal-state partnership in ensuring availability of reliable and affordable service.
- The burden of requesting an investigation after either discontinuation of service has occurred or notice has been filed would unfairly fall on the customer. The commission would have no authority to launch an investigation on its own.
- The state would rely on a “willing” provider to step in and provide service should the commission find that the FCC has not addressed the issue.
- While it’s good that the commission can determine whether another provider is incapable of providing reliable service with access to 911, it has no real authority to ensure that consumers continue to receive affordable, reliable service as the commission may only issue an order “allowing” the current provider to provide service. The commission is not authorized to require the carrier to provide an adequate level of service.”
AARP has designated all votes cast on SB 636 as “key votes,” meaning we will report to our members and others how legislators voted on this important legislation.