MACo Urges Senate to Support Telecommunications Bill but Not the Local Government Restrictions

On March 10, 2015,  Natasha Mehu, MACo Policy Analyst, testified to the Senate Finance committee to support with amendments SB 577, Public Utilities- Telecommunications Law- Modernization. This bill alters some of the regulatory controls the Public Service Commission has over telephone companies. However, it also includes a section that puts broad and vague restrictions on local government. The written testimony explains:

The broad nature of this bill language is troubling. Local governments must retain their authority to regulate through zoning ordinances, easements, rights of way, and consumer protection laws. While telephone companies largely control technology medium for the delivery of services (e.g. fiber, copper wires), the delivery has traditionally been done through “buried utilities” which are laid in the local government’s rights of away. Furthermore, local governments must be able to ensure their residents are receiving quality service and proper assistance from their telephone companies when issues arise. This includes when residents want to keep copper phone lines or have them fixed, or if coaxial cables need to be upgraded to fiber. This is a public safety concern as recent power outages have shown that fiber is not reliable and the battery packs given to subscribers are only good for less than 8 hours. The bill should be amended to ensure current local government authority remains intact.

The amendments MACo recommends for SB 577 would remove the provisions restricting local government authority.

 For more on MACo’s 2015 legislation, visit the Legislative Database.