Florida legislature moves deregulation forward

The Florida Senate's General Government Appropriations Committee approved a version of a deregulation bill to get rid of state oversight of landline rates and customer service Monday in a 3-2 vote. Two Florida House panels have approved a similar bill.

Lawmakers have discussed deregulation initiatives over the past 15 years, but pressure is on to deregulate landline pricing, given the dramatic drop in inventory.  A state report shows that the number of traditional land lines In Florida has dropped from around 12 million in 2001 to 9.7 million in December 2007.

Under the bills the state would continue to regulate rates and customer service for people who buy basic service. But anyone who bought additional features such as caller ID or call waiting would fall into a "nonbasic" category and would not be subject to the basic service regulations. Annual increases in the cost of basic service are limited to an amount less than 1 percent less than the basic rate.

Under the bills a top rate increase of 20 percent would drop to 10 percent, but that 10 percent increase would apply more broadly because more customers would fall into the non-basic category.

AT&T says competition and service bundling will keep rates down, but bill sponsors are trying to make the legislation more palatable by expanding the state's Lifeline phone subsidy program for lower income residents.

For more:
- News Journal Online reports from Florida.

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AT&T spending its way to deregulation in Florida, Tennessee
Southern telecom deregulation marches on

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