Phone companies move deregulation forward in Florida

Legistlators in Florida are scoring a win for AT&T, Verizon, and other telecommunications providers on March 19. The House Energy & Utilities Policy committee passed a bill to remove most state regulation and allow steeper rate hikes for all but the most basic landline phone services.

The "Consumer Choice and Protection Act," would purportedly raise the maximum annual hike increase in Florida from 6 percent to 20 percent for most business and residential customers with landline phones. It would also remove the regulatory power of the state's Public Service Commission for all but basic, landline-only phone services. Lower income residents would no longer be shielded from basic local service rate increases.

Supporters say that rate hikes won't happen because the bill will open up competition and bring down prices. Meanwhile, AT&T says the bill would level the competitive playing field with cable companies who don't have regulation on their phone services. Phone companies say they're losing customers to cable company bundles, which can offer attractive prices without going through the PSC.

For more:
- Tampa Bay Buzz politics blog.

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